Spain's next match is the most important since they secured World Cup victory in 2010. Defeat to Chile in the second round of Group B matches will almost certainly see the champions head home after less than a week in the tournament; such is the importance of a positive display after losing 5-1 to the Netherlands during the opener.
Wednesday's action also sees Louis van Gaal's Dutch side face Australia in the same quartet, while Cameroon and Croatia go toe-to-toe in Group A. Here are the details, followed by a selection of group winner picks and odds to get behind.
|World Cup 2014: Day 7 Fixtures|
|Date||Match||Time (ET)||Time (BST)||TV Info||Live Stream||Prediction|
|June 18||Group B: Australia vs. Netherlands||12 p.m.||5 p.m.||ESPN/ITV||WatchESPN/ITV Player||0-4|
|June 18||Group B: Spain vs. Chile||3 p.m||8 p.m.||ESPN/BBC One||WatchESPN/BBC iPlayer||2-1|
|June 18||Group A: Cameroon vs. Croatia||6 p.m||11 p.m.||ESPN/ITV||WatchESPN/ITV Player||0-2|
Group B Odds and Projections
Australia vs. Netherlands
|Odds: Australia vs. The Netherlands|
It is extremely difficult to look beyond Van Gaal's men in Group B right now. Despite struggling to hit their rhythm in the first half against Spain, conceding the lead to Xabi Alonso's penalty, the Oranje still managed to put five beyond Iker Casillas. This is more than the Spanish conceded during the entirety of their last two major tournament runs.
Australia put up a decent fight against Chile, but after plenty of guts and effort, they still conceded three. The South Americans were by no means rampant, suggesting a high-flying Dutch side will tear through the Socceroos with regularity. With Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie among those in top form, it could be a disheartening night for Australia's battling side.
Spain vs. Chile
|Odds: Spain vs. Chile|
The term "must-win" and "elimination" have rarely been associated with Spain across the past six years. Three consecutive major tournament triumphs have given the nation an air of invincibility, but that shield was battered into submission against the Netherlands.
Vicente del Bosque may be tempted to mix things up as his side go in search of a win. Spain's midfield lacked incision during their last match, as the likes of Andres Iniesta and David Silva failed to insert the cutting edge needed to get beyond a well-drilled defence.
Dermot Corrigan of ESPN FC highlights why the Spanish players need to do more this time out:
Chile, meanwhile, will be looking to take advantage of Spain's recent turmoil. This is the best chance Jorge Sampaoli's side will have of escaping from such a difficult group. Chile will hassle with intent, look to stop Spain keeping the ball and aim to move forward quickly in numbers.
Miguel Delaney of The Independent questions whether the Europeans will be able to manage after such a devastating defeat:
The key question is whether their best is still good enough. Spain's possession game was always hugely dependent on the drive and intensity that went along with it, but it's somewhat inevitable that will wane after six years of unprecedented success.
Spain have the composure and experience to overcome their rivals, even after a difficult week. A win will set them up to finish second in the group—as they face Australia in the last match—leaving Chile with the difficult task of beating the Netherlands during their last encounter.
Group B winners prediction: The Netherlands
Group A Odds and Projections
Cameroon vs. Croatia
|Odds: Cameroon vs. Croatia|
Croatia will step onto the field knowing they deserved at least a point against Brazil. While a number of poor refereeing decisions aided the host nation's victory—none more so than the penalty awarded after Fred's dive—Croatia are still in a decent position to qualify.
Victory over Cameroon will eliminate the Africans from the tournament, while defeat for Croatia would bring the same consequences. Two victories would be enough to ensure Niko Kovac's side finishes at least second, but Brazil remain favourites to top the group knowing their final game is against Cameroon.
The Samba Boys struggled against Mexico, but they are unlikely to face much of a battle if Volker Finke's side is eliminated before they meet. Croatia's midfield possesses the energy and creativity to beat a toothless Cameroon side, but it won't be enough to gain overall victory in Group A.
Group A winners prediction: Brazil
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