Group H is the group of similarities. For starters, three of the four teams (Spain, Honduras and Chile) are Spanish-speaking countries. This means that both teams will be able to comprehend “yo mama” jokes, which may lead to more Zinedine Zidane-like headbutts.
Another similarity is the fact that some of the most accomplished coaches are in this group. Spain is coached by Vicente del Bosque, who has won two Champions League titles, two La Liga titles and one Intercontinental Cup. Switzerland’s coach, Ottmar Hitzfeld, also has two Champions League titles along with two Intercontinental Cups and seven Bundesliga championships. Chile’s coach, Marcelo Bielsa, won the Olympic Gold in 2004 and is the only coach in this group with World Cup experience.
by Justin Mertes-Mistretta
- Spain has only lost one game in the past 47 and that was to the U.S. They went 10-0 in qualifying, outscoring their opponents a combined 28-5. Their 35-game win streak was tied with Brazil as the longest ever.
- This is a rare team that combines great talent with excellent team chemistry. Xavi and Andres Iniesta work very together at midfield. David Villa and Fernando Torres are like Stockton and Malone the way the “give-and-go” in the box (in soccer terms this is called a one-two). Good luck scoring on this bunch. Getting by Gerard Pique and Carles Puyol is like running through a brick wall. If the opposition is somehow able to get through they have to deal with one of the beat keepers, Iker Casillas of Real Madrid. On paper, this team won’t lose. I’ll stop at that before I start regurgitating clichés.
- A common theme for many teams, including Spain, heading into the World Cup, is injuries. Superstars Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas and Fernando Torres are all injured to some extent for Spain. Looks like Spain needs to focus on their pre-game stretch routine.
- This team plays matador-like defense at times, but there’s nothing like a high-scoring offense to help dull the pain. They scored one less goal than Brazil in qualifiers, which is very impressive considering this team is extremely young. This team is a major sleeper if they can make it out of this group. The only question is can they clamp down on defense when they need to? Chile is not going to be able to out-score teams like Spain.
- This team may not win the World Cup, but as far as players go, the Swiss have some of the top up-and-comers. Club teams around the world will have their eyes glued on this team and so should we. Gokhan Inler, Gelson Fernandes, Valon Behrami and especially Tranquillo Barnetta are all young talents that are auditioning for future roles with prestigious club teams. As far as the Swiss’ World Cup chances go, this team will exploit an opponent who is weak in the midfield. Unfortunately, all the teams in this group are strong in that area.
- Honduras, just like France, earned a spot in the World Cup controversially. If it weren’t for Jonathan Bornstein’s (U.S.) late-game goal against Costa Rica, Honduras would be watching the World Cup from home. It was a meaningless game for the U.S., but I’m sure they will receive a fruit basket, at the bare minimum, from Honduras if they advance deep into the World Cup.
Favorite – Spain: This team should breeze through this group. After that, things will get tough as they would have to potentially face Brazil or Portugal, then potentially Italy. That is just to get to the semi-finals. Though, it will be a tough road, Spain has all the talent necessary to make it happen. Many people are pegging Brazil as the World Cup favorites, but I’ll put my money on Spain, as long as Torres is healthy.
Interesting side note on Brazil’s chances: No team has ever won the World Cup after winning the Confederation’s Cup.
Player to watch – David Villa: Many people realize who David Villa is and they know he’s great. However, he will show in this World Cup that he deserves to be mentioned in with the likes of Messi, Rooney and Ronaldo. He will shine in South Africa, right before he heads off to Barcelona to set more goal-scoring records.
Game to watch – Chile vs. Switzerland – June 21, 10:00 A.M. (ET): This game could very well be for second place in the group. It’s a classic offense vs. defense game. Chile has a very potent offense, whereas Switzerland prides themselves on their stingy defense. Matias Fernandez is an up-and-coming star for Chile. He is a player to watch as this may be his coming-out party.
1 – Spain (7 pts)
2 – Chile (5 pts)
3 – Switzerland (2 pts)
4 – Honduras (1 pt)
With the first match of the World Cup only one hour away, all predictions can be thrown out the window. It’s the World Cup folks, anything is possible. Fasten your seat-belts, we’re in for one heck of a ride.
Read more articles by Justin Mertes-Mistretta at https://www.percysperspective.com/
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