World Cup Group H Preview

Spain looks like the heavy favorite here, but the top of this group might prove more interesting than it seems at first glance. Chile will battle the Spaniards for first place in the group and their matchup should be a good one.

Spain comes into the tournament winning every single one of their qualifiers. The Red Fury have yet to win a World Cup, but they are looking to change that soon. Spanning from 2007 through 2009, Spain went undefeated in 35 straight matches and they are working on a new streak. They have won their last 11 matches after a 2-0 defeat at the hands of the United States.

They have one of the best midfielders in the tournament in Xavi. The 30-year-old playmaker will control the ball and jumpstart the Spanish offense with his precise passes. The team has two excellent strikers who know how to finish the job in David Villa and Fernando Torres. La Furia Roja plays an extremely fast style of soccer and they are fun to watch.

But Chile can’t be overlooked. They finished second in their qualification region – the CONMEBOL – only one point behind perennial powerhouse Brazil. Chile won 10 games and finished ahead of Paraguay and Argentina.

They have won nine of their last 11 matches with their only losses coming against Mexico and Brazil – they drew with Venezuela in March.

Chile also has the advantage of being used to the climate in the southern hemisphere, which could play a major role in their quest to upset Spain.

Neither Honduras nor Switzerland will have a legitimate shot at winning the group or even advancing. Honduras did beat the US in a friendly in January, but they haven’t shown that they can run with the big teams.

Los Catrachos have some talent on their roster, with Wilson Palacios, Julio Cesar and David Suazo leading the way. However, it won’t be enough to surprise Spain or Chile and Honduras will most likely end up in third place.

Swiss coach Ottmar Hitzfeld is probably the most prominent figure on the team. The General has been extremely successful on the club level and was twice elected World Coach of the Year. He has won a total of 18 major titles with Grasshoppers Zurich, Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund. He took over the reigns of the Swiss national team in 2008 with hopes of turning them into a perennial winner.

The squad did surprise at the 2006 World Cup as they advanced from the group stage without giving up a single goal. They lost to Ukraine in a penalty shootout and became the first team to be eliminated from the World Cup without conceding a goal in regulation.

Switzerland won their group in the first round of the qualifying stage, beating out Greece for the top position. This secured their spot in the World Cup and allowed them to sit and watch as the best runners-up faced off in the second round of the European qualifying region.

While this was a success for Hitzfeld and the Eidgenossen, they are not consistently at a level where they can beat the soccer powerhouses. They showed that they can pull off the occasional upset by beating Portugal at Euro 2008, but they also showed that they can lose to far inferior opponents when they lost to Luxembourg in the early stages of qualifying.

Pinnacle has Spain as the heavy favorite to win the group at -399. Chile is a very interesting option here, though. I think they have a shot at shocking the Spaniards and winning the group. Pinnacle will pay you $557 for your $100 bet should they indeed pull off the upset.

Even if everything comes together for Switzerland and Honduras, I don’t see them advancing over Spain and Chile, but if you’re feeling lucky, Honduras’ line to advance to the Round of 16 its at +570.

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