World Cup 2014: Guide to Spain's Group B

SPAIN (seeded)

How do they play?

Style & formation: Overrun and out-muscled by Brazil in the 2013 Confederations Cup final, Vicente del Bosque is likely to start with Xabi Alonso alongside Sergio Busquets as duel defensive midfield 'pivots'.

Xavi will dictate the tempo in front of them in a more advanced role than he plays for Barcelona.

But it's up front where things get interesting, Cesc Fabregas will continue as a 'false nine', but in Diego Costa they have a strikingly different Plan B to call upon. Guile comes from Andres Iniesta and Pedro, while Jordi Alba acts as an auxiliary winger.

Strengths: Spain's squad averages 60 caps per man and contains some of the most decorated players in football history, backed up by a bench containing the likes of Diego Costa, Santi Cazorla, Koke and David Silva.

Sergio Ramos leads a defence that hasn't let in a goal in 10 knockout matches at the Euros in 2008 and 2012, and the last World Cup.

Weaknesses: Brazil showed last summer that aggressively denying Spain time and space at the base of their midfield negates the stranglehold they can put on a match through having endless possession.

A long season has left key players carrying injuries, while has time caught up with Xavi's career?

Key player

Playing at centre-back in a team bristling with stars can result in getting overlooked but Spain would truly miss enterprising yet robust defender Sergio Ramos.

Capped 115 times at the age of 27, he has started 18 of their last 19 tournament matches and was ever-present during qualifying.

Sergio Ramos

One to watch

Striker Diego Costa chose adopted nation Spain over Brazil, the country of his birth, and can expect a hostile reception from home fans.

The 25-year-old played twice for Brazil in March 2013 but was able to switch allegiance as neither were competitive fixtures.

The boss

Vicente Del Bosque is aiming to become only the second coach in history to win two World Cups. Add in the 2012 Euros and it makes Real Madrid's decision to sack him after two Champions League wins because they wanted "someone with more emphasis on tactics, strategy and physical preparation" seem a little foolish.

How they qualified

The holders emerged unbeaten over their eight matches, with back-to-back home draws against Finland and France a mere blip. They did not trail at any stage of qualification.

World Cup record

Spain finally shook off their bridesmaid tag in winning the last World Cup; their previous best had been fourth in Brazil in 1950.

Fifa ranking: 1

Spain starting XI graphic

Possible starting XI

Squad

Goalkeepers: Iker Casillas (Real Madrid), Pepe Reina (Napoli), David De Gea (Manchester United).

Defenders: Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid), Gerard Pique (Barcelona), Raul Albiol (Napoli), Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea), Juanfran (Atletico Madrid), Jordi Alba (Barcelona).

Midfielders: Xavi (Barcelona), Xabi Alonso (Real Madrid), Sergio Busquets (Barcelona), Andres Iniesta (Barcelona), Cesc Fabregas (Barcelona), Santi Cazorla (Arsenal), Koke (Atletico Madrid), Javi Martinez (Bayern Munich).

Forwards: David Silva (Manchester City), Diego Costa (Atletico Madrid), Fernando Torres (Chelsea), Pedro (Barcelona), Juan Mata (Manchester United), David Villa (Atletico Madrid).

NETHERLANDS

World Cup team profiles -The Netherlands

Prospects

As ever with the Dutch at a major tournament, it is difficult to predict how they will fare. The 2010 World Cup finalists went unbeaten in 2013, scoring goals for fun, but that achievement is less impressive when you look at who they faced.

Any team containing Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie will pose a threat but the loss of midfield colossus Kevin Strootman is a huge blow. His absence, plus an inexperienced defence, has prompted Manchester United's manager-in-waiting Louis van Gaal to switch to a unfamiliar 5-3-2 formation that has Dutch purists furrowing their brows.

Key player

Arjen Robben has given a series of coruscating displays for Bayern Munich over the last couple of seasons, including scoring the winner in the 2013 Champions League final. Let's not forget Robin van Persie, who scored 11 goals in nine qualifiers to overtake Patrick Kluivert as the Netherlands' all-time record scorer.

Arjen Robben

One to watch

A superb season has seen Daley Blind firmly emerge from the shadow of his father, legendary Ajax and Oranje player Danny.

Ajax boss Frank de Boer has overseen his transformation from a defender to a defensive midfield 'pivot' with great success, but Louis van Gaal is expected to play him as a left wing-back. Once booed by the Ajax crowd, they now revere a player who won the Dutch league's Player of the Year award this season.

The boss

New Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has won league titles with Ajax, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and AZ Alkmaar. Appointed as Netherlands boss in 2012, he has Danny Blind and Patrick Kluivert, who won the Champions League at Ajax under him, on his coaching staff.

How they qualified

They won nine of their 10 matches and scored 34 goals, with only a 2-2 draw against Estonia denying them a perfect record. That said, few countries had easier opposition - none of their opponents were ranked in Fifa's top 30.

World Cup record

The Dutch suffered World Cup final heartbreak for a third time in 2010 when they lost to Spain, adding to the defeats their great teams suffered in 1974 and 1978. Brazil will be their 10th World Cup finals.

Fifa ranking: 15

Squad

Goalkeepers: Jasper Cillessen (Ajax), Tim Krul (Newcastle), Michel Vorm (Swansea)

Defenders: Daley Blind, Joel Veltman (both Ajax), Stefan de Vrij, Daryl Janmaat, Terence Kongolo, Bruno Martins Indi, (all Feyenoord), Paul Verhaegh (FC Augsburg), Ron Vlaar (Aston Villa).

Midfielders: Jordy Clasie (Feyenoord), Jonathan de Guzman (Swansea), Nigel de Jong (AC Milan), Leroy Fer (Norwich), Arjen Robben (Bayern Munich), Wesley Sneijder (Galatasaray), Georginio Wijnaldum (PSV Eindhoven).

Forwards: Memphis Depay (PSV Eindhoven), Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (Schalke 04), Dirk Kuyt (Fenerbahce), Jeremain Lens (Dynamo Kiev), Robin van Persie (Manchester United).

CHILE

Prospects

New coach Jorge Sampaoli has brought a swagger back to Chile's football, combining aggressive pressing with a fluent passing game. Fun to watch, tough to play against, La Roja have the potential to reach the quarter-finals for only the second time in their history - if their best 11 stay fit.

Key player

Lightning quick Barcelona forward Alexis Sanchez, 25, hit a rich vein of goalscoring form for club and country over the course of the season. Juventus midfielder Arturo Vidal is equally indispensable, although the 27-year-old has recently had surgery on his knee.

One to watch

Jorge Valdivia is as much a playboy as he is a playmaker but he remains a fantastic talent.

"El Mago" (The Magician) is in his 30s, but his brilliant eye for a defence-splitting pass is undimmed. The classic number 10 has served two lengthy bans from international football for but retains the faith of coach Sampaoli, who calls him an "irreplaceable talent".

The boss

Jorge Sampaoli replaced Claudio Borghi midway through qualifying, quickly reviving Chilean fortunes. A self-confessed disciple of fellow Argentine Marcelo Bielsa (who led Chile in 2010) he is a passionate, energetic touchline presence. Early in his career he was blocked from watching his lower league team play, so climbed a nearby tree, from where he bawled instructions at his players.

How they qualified

They finished third in South American qualifying despite a mid-campaign wobble which saw them lose four games in a row. A change in coach halted the slump, and they recovered to win five of their last six games.

World Cup record

This is only the third time they have qualified in eight tournaments, but they did reach the last 16 in 1998 and 2010 - losing to Brazil on both occasions. They got to the semi-finals on home soil in 1962, again losing to the Brazilians.

Fifa ranking: 14

Squad

Goalkeepers: Claudio Bravo (Real Sociedad), Johnny Herrera (Universidad de Chile), Cristopher Toselli (Universidad Catolica).

Defenders: Gary Medel (Cardiff City), Gonzalo Jara (Nottingham Forest), Jose Rojas (Universidad de Chile), Eugenio Mena (Santos), Mauricio Isla (Juventus).

Midfielders: Jorge Valdivia (Palmeiras), Felipe Gutierrez (Twente), Jose Pedro Fuenzalida (Colo Colo), Francisco Silva (Osasuna), Arturo Vidal (Juventus), Charles Aranguiz (Internacional), Marcelo Diaz (Basel), Carlos Carmona (Atalanta), Miiko Albornoz (Malmo).

Forwards: Alexis Sanchez (Barcelona), Esteban Paredes (Colo Colo) Eduardo Vargas (Valencia), Jean Beausejour (Wigan Athletic), Mauricio Pinilla (Cagliari), Fabian Orellana (Celta).

AUSTRALIA

World Cup team profile - Australia

Prospects

Australia are the lowest ranked country to qualify, and the remit for new coach Ange Postecoglou is to bring through the youth. His predecessor Holger Osieck was sacked in October after back-to-back 6-0 defeats by Brazil and France, having been accused of staying too loyal to the Socceroos' ageing players.

Key player

Australia's player of the year and newly appointed captain, Mile Jedinak, will have to play a vital role as chief midfield protector if the Socceroos are to enjoy a fruitful World Cup. In the prime of his career, the Crystal Palace skipper can also play in defence.

One to watch

Mathew Ryan has just been named as the Belgian league's goalkeeper of the year in his very first season in European football.

The man tasked with replacing Mark Schwarzer in the national team is learning from one of the best at Club Brugge - his head coach is legendary Belgian Michel Preud'homme, winner of the Yashin Award for best goalkeeper at the 1994 World Cup.

The boss

Ange Postecoglou stated "when your country calls, you answer" after signing a five-year deal. As a player, Greek-born Postecoglou won four Australia caps. He is a former national youth-team coach and led Brisbane Roar to two A-League titles. He has forged a reputation for starting and reviving numerous careers.

How they qualified

Now firmly established as an Asian Football Federation member, the Socceroos qualified automatically behind Japan but their passage to Brazil was not easy. Winless in their first three matches, they went unbeaten over the last five and secured their place seven minutes from time in the final game against Iraq.

World Cup record

They have reached their third successive finals, and their fourth in total. Under Guus Hiddink, they reached the last 16 in 2006 but lost in stoppage time to eventual winners Italy.

Fifa ranking: 62

Squad

Goalkeepers: Eugene Galekovic (Adelaide United), Mitchell Langerak (Borussia Dortmund), Mat Ryan (Club Brugge).

Defenders: Jason Davidson (Heracles Almelo), Ivan Franjic (Brisbane Roar), Ryan McGowan (Shandong Luneng Taishan), Matthew Spiranovic (Western Sydney Wanderers), Alex Wilkinson (Jeonbuk Hyundai), Bailey Wright (Preston North End).

Midfielders: Oliver Bozanic (Luzern), Mark Bresciano (Al Gharafa), James Holland (Austria Vienna), Mile Jedinak (Crystal Palace), Massimo Luongo (Swindon Town), Matthew McKay (Brisbane Roar), Mark Milligan (Melbourne Victory), Tommy Oar (Utrecht), James Troisi (Melbourne Victory), Dario Vidosic (Sion).

Forwards: Tim Cahill (New York Red Bulls), Ben Halloran (Fortuna Dusseldorf), Matthew Leckie (FSV Frankfurt 1899), Adam Taggart (Newcastle Jets).

Fixtures

13 June 2014

Spain v Netherlands, Arena Fonte Nova, Salvador, 20:00 (BBC)

13 June 2014

Chile v Australia, Arena Pantanal, Cuiaba, 23:00 (ITV)

18 June 2014

Spain v Chile, Estadio do Maracana, Rio de Janeiro, 20:00 (BBC)

18 June 2014

Australia v Netherlands, Estadio Beira-Rio, Porto Alegre, 17:00 (ITV)

23 June 2014

Australia v Spain, Arena da Baixada, Curitiba, 17:00 (ITV)

23 June 2014

Netherlands v Chile, Arena de Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo, 17:00 (ITV)