11:22 03 June 2014
A group that brings together the reigning world champions – and runners-up. Who can forget that awful final four years ago when Spain slugged it out with the Netherlands in a match that was more akin to a night out at York Hall than the grand finale of the so-called beautiful game.
Spain won 1-0, but for the puritanical among us there were no winners. It was an awful advertisement.
The Spanish at their best are mesmeric: it is almost total ball possession.
The Dutch are more expansive: but will coach Louis van Gaal’s post-tournament departure to Manchester United affect them? They can be a cantankerous lot.
Sadly, it doesn’t bode well for Chile and Australia who, all things being equal, will be battling with each other to avoid the wooden spoon.
Manager: Vicente del Bosque
Star player: David Silva
Previous record: Holders
Summary: A team of artists, known for eroding the opposition’s confidence. They do have a dark side: Sergio Ramos is easily their most uncompromising player. Lots of experience in the side: have they had their day?
Manager: Jorge Sampaoli
Star player: Arturo Vidal
Previous record: 1962 third place
Summary: Had a change of coach during the qualifying campaign when a sharp downturn in form saw Argentinian coach Claudio Borghi replaced by compatriot Jorge Sampaoli. Very attacking side.
Manager: Louis van Gaal
Star player: Arjen Robben
Previous record: R-up 74, 78, 2010
Summary: Three-time losers in finals, including the terrible advert for football four years ago against Spain. Cruised through qualifying – Germany were the only side on the continent to score more goals than their 34
Manager: Ange Postecoglou
Star player: Tim Cahill
Previous record: Group stages
Summary: Still relying on their experienced performers to get them through. Inconsistent in qualifying, which cost coach Holger Osieck his job in October after successive 6-0 defeats against Brazil and France.