B/R Experts' World Cup Predictions: Spain Seeking Liftoff

Alex LivieFeatured ColumnistJune 18, 2014

B/R Experts' World Cup Predictions: Spain Seeking Liftoff

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    Bleacher Report's experts were keen not to rest on the laurels of their efforts of last season, so they will go into battle for the whole of the World Cup.

    Each game will feature a score prediction, combined with a Man of the Match selection (decision will be based on FIFA's official Man of the Match).

    The predictions are in the following slides, and you will be able to chart their success—or lack thereof—for the rest of the tournament on our daily scoreboard.

    Post your own picks on Twitter and include @br_uk. Anyone who gets all correct scorelines and the Man of the Match awards right will get a Bleacher Report goody bag.

Australia vs. Netherlands

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    Alex Dimond: Australia 1-3 Netherlands

    Australia were dogged if limited in their first game against Chile, while Netherlands surprised many with the all-round excellence of their display against Spain. Their particular strength was in attack, and they could and should feast on an Australian defence that always looks susceptible to intricate attacking play.

    Man of the Match: Arjen Robben

    Arjen Robben was brilliant against Spain, and he looks determined to really make his mark on this World Cup. His drive and movement will likely be too much for his opponents to handle, so if he grabs a goal, he will likely be a shoo-in for Man of the Match.

     

    Karl Matchett: Australia 1-3 Netherlands

    Netherlands have put themselves into a hugely promising position in a tough group; there’s no way they will let it slip from here. Australia’s best hope is to get Mathew Leckie and Co. high up the field and wide behind the wing-backs if Netherlands play the same 3-4-1-2 system. The Oranje have too much, though, and should see the win out.

    Man of the Match: Arjen Robben

    The Australia centre-backs simply aren’t good enough to cope with Robben’s movement and dribbling in a high central position. He could run riot.

     

    Michael Cummings: Australia 1-3 Netherlands

    Netherlands shocked the world last time out, and they'll be riding high again this time. Australia will provide a stern test, just as they showed in their opener, but Dutch class will win out, with Robin van Persie playing a starring role for his future club coach. Have they finally found the right formula for glory?

    Man of the Match: Robin van Persie

    The Manchester United man was sensational against Spain; any sort of repeat could earn him the prize.

     

    Sam Tighe: Australia 1-3 Netherlands

    Australia looked bright against Chile but fell short due to a lack of quality, and it's easy to see the same thing happening against the Netherlands. Tim Cahill will threaten the creaky defence in the air, but Arjen Robben and Co. will have too much overall.

    Man of the Match: Arjen Robben

    The Bayern Munich winger was fantastic against Spain. Expect Australia to suffer as well.

     

    Will Tidey: Australia 0-4 Netherlands

    The Dutch have their tails up and Australia could be theirs for the taking. I expect an early surge from Louis van Gaal's men, followed by a relaxed conclusion to this one.

    Man of the Match: Arjen Robben

    Arjen Robben's searing pace will be too much for the Socceroos to deal with. He could score another couple in this one.

Spain vs. Chile

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    Alex Dimond: Spain 2-1 Chile

    A very difficult game to predict, considering how Spain were opened up at will by a Dutch side that share many of the same attacking traits—pace, directness and unpredictable movement—that Chile pride themselves on. But the South American side are not as strong at the back and, provoked into a response by that 5-1 defeat, Spain will muster the victory they need to keep their tournament alive.

    Man of the Match: Diego Costa

    Other than winning his side's penalty against the Netherlands, Diego Costa was relatively ineffective, but in this one he could well return to form with a bang. The lack of size and power in the Chile defence was obvious even against Australia, and Costa could well bully his way to a couple of goals against a makeshift defensive pairing that will struggle to match him on the ground or in the air.

     

    Karl Matchett: Spain 2-1 Chile

    Spain have to change things in a big way, whether that’s personnel or mentality. They were miles off the pace against Netherlands once they went behind, and that should be a big wake-up call. Chile have the pace in attack to really trouble them, but their defence was worryingly open at times versus Australia.

    Man of the Match: Xavi

    Big players step up at big moments, and they don’t come much bigger than Xavi. If he starts, expect a master performance.

      

    Michael Cummings: Spain 2-1 Chile

    Soul-searching times for Spain. Is this really the end, or is there life left in the dynasty? Be very careful before you count them out, no matter how bad they were against Netherlands.

    Man of the Match: Andres Iniesta

    Spain need some big performances from their key players. Andres Iniesta has done it down the years; the time is now to do it again.

     

    Sam Tighe: Spain 2-1 Chile

    Spain endured a torrid start to the World Cup, freakishly being thrashed by a rampant Dutch outfit. I'm willing to say that's a one-off, an anomaly, and that Chile's own frailties will be exposed by Spain on Tuesday.

    Man of the Match: Diego Costa

    Diego Costa will bully Gonzalo Jara and Gary Medel.

     

    Will Tidey: Spain 2-1 Chile

    Everybody is waiting to see the Spain reaction, but we should remember that Chile are a very, very good side, on their home continent and with confidence from a victory first up. That said, I think Spain will edge it.

    Man of the Match: Diego Costa

    Diego Costa will be Spain's match-winner. I have him scoring both goals and announcing himself to the World Cup.

Cameroon vs. Croatia

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    Alex Dimond: Cameroon 1-2 Croatia

    A must-win game for both sides after opening defeats, meaning they will have to discard the somewhat defensive approaches (overtly so, in the case of the African side) they initially employed. Cameroon were beaten pretty comfortably by an average Mexico side, however, so Croatia—so comfortable for long periods against Brazil—will be confident their more incisive attacking players and ability to retain possession will see them through this one.

    Man of the Match: Ivan Rakitic

    Ivan Rakitic was relatively subdued as a holding midfielder against Brazil, but with Croatia needing to win this game, he may be released further upfield as he generally is for his club side. That is where he is most dangerous, and he could exhibit his brilliant attacking talents in putting Cameroon to the sword.

     

    Karl Matchett: Cameroon 0-2 Croatia

    The fury of injustice will be put right by Croatia in this game. They’re better in midfield than Cameroon and will create a lot of chances, but they will need Mario Mandzukic to be fit and firing to take advantage.

    Man of the Match: Ivan Rakitic

    Ivan Rakitic to take charge of the ball, dictate the game and carve out a win.

     

    Michael Cummings: Cameroon 0-2 Croatia

    After the opener against Brazil, you have to think that Croatia will be playing with a chip on their collective shoulder for as long as they remain in the tournament. As we saw against the hosts, this team has the players to cause trouble for even the top sides. Cameroon, based on their game against Mexico, are far from a top side.

    Man of the Match: Luka Modric

    Look for Luka Modric to pull the strings in that superb midfield as Croatia bounce back in style.

     

    Sam Tighe: Cameroon 0-2 Croatia

    Cameroon were awful in their first outing, and now that star man Samuel Eto'o is out for the game, their chances diminish further. Croatia were the better side, largely, in the opener versus Brazil in Sao Paulo and will be eager to reload with a win.

    Man of the Match: Mario Mandzukic

    Take the forward to announce himself on the World Cup stage.

     

    Will Tidey: Cameroon 2-2 Croatia

    The threat of an early exit looms for both of these sides, so expect a frenetic and passionate contest. There will be mistakes, and mistakes produce goals.

    Man of the Match: Luka Modric

    Luka Modric to star for Croatia, playing a part in both goals and keeping their hopes alive into the last game.

Updated Standings

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    B/R Expert Picks

    (One point for correct result, three points for correct scoreline and two points for correct Man of the Match.)

    Sam Tighe 28
    Michael Cummings27
    Karl Matchett 25
    Will Tidey 20
    Alex Dimond 15