Group H: Spain, Chile, Honduras, Switzerland
Spain look set to finish atop Group H thanks to their status as one of the favorites to lift the World Cup trophy. Their presence in this group though is only part of the story. This is an evenly-balanced group that features efficient Switzerland, classy Chile, and solid Honduras.
The Swiss rebounded in emphatic fashion after a troublesome start to their qualifying campaign and will be a threat under Ottmar Hitzfeld. Marcelo Bielsa is one of the more highly rated managers in South Africa and he has led Chile to the 2010 World Cup playing an attractive, free-flowing style of football. Under Reinaldo Rueda, Honduras have become a very difficult team to play against and will challenge too for a place in the second round.
What Should Happen
Spain should not have to exert themselves too much in order to win all three first-round fixtures and advance from this section. So, the battle will be for second. Chile are perhaps the slight favorites and could edge out Switzerland and Honduras thanks to their options in attack. It will be tight though and this group has a good chance of going to the final minute of the final matches.
What Might Happen Instead
Winning Euro 2008 was supposed to usher in a new psychological edge for Spain who have been traditionally disappointing at the World Cup. This new found belief will come under serious scrutiny in South Africa and should there be an early slip-up against Switzerland in their opener then suddenly those old fears could come creeping back. This side have also had some injury issues in the run-in to the competition with key players such as Xavi, Fernando Torres, and Andres Iniesta in a race to become fully fit before the tournament starts. Should they falter early, watch to see if Spain’s recent confidence begins to waver.
On June 16th, Honduras and Chile clash in what should be an attractive match-up. Besides the potential for an aesthetically-pleasing fixture, a win by either side would put them in pole position for second place, especially if Spain are able to defeat Switzerland in their opener. Suddenly, the Swiss would be up against the wall with either Honduras or Chile having a big advantage going into the next two matches.
Players To Watch
In a side full of amazing talent, Xavi is the man that will ultimately determine how well Spain does in South Africa. Arguably the world’s best midfielder, Xavi’s passing, vision, and ability to dictate the tempo of an entire match will be key for Vicente Del Bosque’s team.
Alexander Frei’s ability as a goalscorer will make him the focal point of Switzerland’s attack in South Africa. His 40 goals in 73 appearances for Switzerland represents a wonderful international scoring rate and shows just how important he will be if Switzerland are to make it out of Group H.
Chile’s attack will be led by Humberto Suazo. The Monterrey striker performed well this season going to Real Zaragoza on loan and showing he can make the grade in Europe. He has the most goals of anyone in the Chilean team (18 in 42 caps) and has scored over 200 times in his career in all competitions.
Wilson Palacios will be the steel in the Honduras midfield in Group G play. The Tottenham midfielder has represented his country 68 times and is a stalwart for the Catrachos. His ability to win the ball and distribute will be vital against the other top midfielders in this group. For a team that likes to counterattack, Palacios’ performances will be crucial to his team’s success.
One Game, One World Prediction
There won’t be any surprise capitulation by Spain, this current team is so talented that even bad performances can result in victories thanks to the individual abilities inherent in the squad. Spain will finish first, while second place in our view will go to Chile. Bielsa has unfinished business at the World Cup after suffering a group stage exit with Argentina back in 2002. This time, his talented team will go through with Switzerland just missing out along with Honduras.
Will Spain falter? Who will finish second if they don’t? Send over your comments on what will happen in Group H!