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World Cup preview: Group B rundown

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A quick look at the teams competing in Group B at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil

A look at the teams competing in Group B at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil:

WORLD CUP PREVIEW

GROUP B

AUSTRALIA

FIFA World ranking: 59.

Last World Cup: 2010.

Best World Cup finish: Round of 16 (2006).

How qualified: AFC Group B runner-up.

It's a fact: Australia holds the record for the most one-sided international win in soccer history with a 31-0 victory over American Samoa in World Cup qualifying in 2001.

The skinny: Australia was the first team to arrive in Brazil, setting up camp in Vitoria 16 days before the tournament opener. And the Socceroos figure to be among first to leave too. New Coach Ange Postecoglou was hired in October to lead a regeneration of the national team program, and he got started on that last month when he left 36-year-old defender Lucas Neill off his roster. Only two of Australia's likely starters in Brazil are older than 29 — including Tim Cahill of the New York Red Bulls —- while six are 25 or younger.

CHILE

FIFA World ranking: 13.

Last World Cup: 2010.

Best World Cup finish: Third place (1962).

How qualified: CONMEBOL round-robin, third place.

It's a fact: Chile's last three national team coaches have come from neighboring Argentina.

The skinny: Chile could be one of the surprise teams of the tournament. It has played one of the toughest schedules of any World Cup team over the last nine months, beating England and Costa Rica, losing by a goal to Germany and Brazil and playing Colombia and Spain to draws. To get out of group play, it will have to eliminate a 2010 finalist, either Spain or the Netherlands. Sound impossible? A popular TV ad backing the team in Chile stars the miners who were trapped underground for 69 days in 2010 and ends with the slogan "For a Chilean, nothing is impossible."

NETHERLANDS

FIFA World ranking: 15.

Last World Cup: 2010.

Best World Cup finish: Three-time runner-up (1974, '78, 2010).

How qualified: UEFA Group D winner.

It's a fact: The Netherlands is the only country to reach three World Cup finals without winning one.

The skinny: The Dutch won't have to wait long for a chance to avenge their loss in the 2010 Cup final: They open against Spain, a 1-0 overtime winner in South Africa. And though the Netherlands will have the likes of Arjen Robben, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Wesley Sneijder and Robin van Persie at its disposal, playmaker Rafael van der Vaart is out with a calf injury. The question now is which team shows up in Brazil, the one that went unbeaten in World Cup qualifying or the one that was winless in group play at the 2012 Euros?

SPAIN

FIFA World ranking: 1.

Last World Cup: 2010.

Best World Cup finish: Champion, 2010.

How qualified: UEFA Group I winner.

It's a fact: With wins in the last two Euros and the 2010 World Cup, Spain is the only country to win three consecutive major international championships.

The skinny: Spain is growing old — five potential starters are 30 or older — and complacent. It was blitzed by Brazil in last year's Confederations Cup. But it remains as talented and fundamentally sound as any team in the world. Still, Coach Vicente Del Bosque will face pressure to split parts of his aging Golden Generation, such as 34-year-old Xavi, off his starting 11. Then there is Diego Costa. Does he automatically start if his hamstring heals in time? Given Spain's problems up front, there may be no choice if Spain hopes to become the first repeat winner in 52 years.

SCHEDULE

June 13: Spain vs. Netherlands at Salvador; Chile vs. Australia at Cuiaba.

June 18: Spain vs. Chile at Rio de Janeiro; Australia vs. Netherlands at Porto Alegre.

June 23: Australia vs. Spain at Curitiba; Netherlands vs. Chile at Sao Paulo.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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