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World Cup, June 18: A True "Final" For Spain against Chile

Spain won the 2010 World Cup after an opening loss, running the table with six wins. They need #1 today against Chile.

Clive Mason

ESPN ratings for the World Cup so far have been very good (no surprise that the USA-Ghana match leads the way), though Univision's ratings have been even higher.  A reminder that the soccer public in the US is still driven by Spanish speakers (Mexican league matches on Univision outdrew those of the EPL on NBC this season--it wasn't even close).

Here is your "Morning coffee from BRazil" courtesy of SB Nation:

Three matches today, but the main one is the second, of course!!

Group B Australia, who showed pretty well after going down two goals quickly, take on the Netherlands (9 AM ET, Porto Alegre).  Realistically, can this be anything except three points for the Dutch?  Probably not.  Australia don't have anyone of the quality of Arjen Robben, Robin Van Persie, or Wesley Sneijder.  The Socceroos will battle, but barring a miracle, it will be 6 points from 2 for the Dutch.   Villarreal fans will be hoping Jonathan de Guzmán has a better day than against Spain, increasing his sale value.

Prediction: 4-1 Netherlands

Which brings us to the key match of the day, Chile vs. Spain (Noon ET, Rio). These two teams met in the round of 16 in 2010, Spain winning 2-1.  Chile promises amazing interplay in attack, sometimes suicidal defense, and total unpredictability.  Jorge Sampaoli has a lot of players to choose from, and against Australia pushed the right buttons when he needed to.

Vicente del Bosque has indicated some changes will be made after the Dutch debacle (how could you not?).  Pique may be dropped in favor of Javi Martinez, and word is Diego Costa may be dropped as well.  Will Spain respond by rediscovering their possession game and thwarting Chile's attacking plans, or will they struggle to create any real threat?  How many wasted scoring opportunities will Chile have?  Or will someone (probably Costa) provoke a Chilean into a red card?  And for that matter, how long until Sergio Ramos picks up the inevitable yellow card so misses the Australia match?   What about Santi Cazorla--will he get on the pitch today?  Questions, questions.

Unless the Dutch have dropped points earlier in the day, with their terrible goal difference Spain will know they realistically have to win this match.  A draw here would require Spain to blitz Australia while Chile falls apart against the Dutch, and that's probably not too likely.   Unfortunately for La Roja, I don't see them getting all three points, but maybe they will prove me wrong.   Prediction: 1-1

Group A: With Brazil and Mexico each on 4 points from 2 matches, it's Croatia's turn. (3PM ET, Manaus)  Cameroon looked pretty awful in their opening match, to be honest, and they will be without Samuel Eto'o for this one, though he didn't do much against Mexico anyhow.  Croatia get Mandzukic back for this one, and the Rakitic-Modric midfield ought to create a more attacking look this time.   Cameroon can't be as bad this time round, can they?  And surely they won't get so much help from the referee--that opening loss should have been 3-0, not 1-0...  Prediction: 2-1 Croatia.