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Group B: Just Bring It

SPAIN, HOLLAND AND CHILE. What an amazing group to be in. This is the beauty of WORLD CUPS #GroupB #Brazil2014 @FOXSportsNews @FOXFOOTBALL

— Tim Cahill (@Tim_Cahill) December 6, 2013

The great man is spot on.

What an unbelievable group.

While some might look at it as a daunting prospect, it’s important to remember that professionals want to challenge themselves at the highest level, and against the best.

This is the challenge we want.

We must also look at this within the wider context of the following years – with the 2015 AFC Asian Cup on home soil, Brazil provides Ange Postecoglou and his men the chance to mix it up with some of the greatest players of this era on the world’s biggest stage.

Group B will expose our players to as close to the pinnacle of football that you can get in the group stages. The lights will most certainly be on bright.

Who awaits the Socceroos next June?

First up, a trip to the newly completed Arena Pantanal in Cuiabá to face Chile. With Juve’s midfield general Arturo Vidal, Barcelona’s in-form Alexis Sánchez, Cardiff’s Gary Medel (a personal favourite of mine) and even Wigan’s Jean Beausejour to contend with, this is a team that can cause some real trouble. Finished third in CONMEBOL qualifying behind Argentina and Colombia. The Socceroos are 0-1-3 against the Chileans, with the last match played a 2-1 loss in February 2000.

Next stop? The ‘Happy Harbour’ Porto Alegre (which incidentally sounds like a lovely place to visit) to face 2010 finalists the Netherlands. A side brimming with youth, with a sprinkling of top, top players. Robin van Persie, Tim Krul, Arjen Robben, Kevin Strootman and Rafael van der Vaart come to mind. I could name more, but you get the idea. Finished undefeated and on top of their (admittedly weak) qualifying group. Did you know? The Socceroos have NEVER lost to the Dutch. Having met three times (all since 2006), the record stands at 1-2-0. Handy.

The final match of the group stage sees the Socceroos line up against 2008/2012 European and reigning World champions, Spain at Arena da Baixada, Curitiba. I’m not going to try and identify their key men, because I might as well copy/paste their entire squad list from the past few qualifying fixtures. You can’t dispute that the squad is ageing, but La Roja arguably have even greater depth this time around. No nation has ever won four major tournaments in a row, but this side will give it a red hot go. The Socceroos have never faced Spain, which also means we’ve never lost to them either. YES.

Over the three group matches, we’ll see if Maty Ryan can keep Alexis at bay, if Cahill can find a way past Krul, and if Milligan and Jedinak can go toe-to-toe with Xavi and Iniesta.

The prospect of seeing that alone has me excited.

I can’t bloody wait.

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