Spain, Netherlands, Chile headline Group B at WCup

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MADRID (AP) - Spain’s bid to repeat as champion has the unenviable task of beginning in a World Cup group with the Netherlands, Chile and Australia.

Three of the four should contend for a spot in the knockout phase, with plucky Australia looking overmatched but able to spoil the hopes of the others.

Spain and the Netherlands play on June 13 at Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador, while Chile could take an early lead in Group B with its opener against Australia at the Arena Pantanal in Cuiaba.

Here are five things to know about Group B:

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STARTING STRONG

With Brazil a potential opponent in the round of 16, no team can afford a poor start in Group B.

Spain lost its opening match at the World Cup four years ago, but went on to beat the Netherlands in the final. This year, those same two teams meet in one of the most anticipated opening matches of the tournament.

The rematch is likely to produce a different spectacle than four years ago when the Dutch soured their tournament run with a physical, defensive display that has come to be symbolized by Nigel de Jong’s kung-fu style kick to the chest of Spain midfielder Xabi Alonso.

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SPAIN ON COURSE

Spain has not lost a step as it vies to win a fourth straight major tournament with a core squad that is likely playing its final World Cup.

Spain’s schedule is perhaps the toughest, as it follows up its match against the Netherlands by playing Chile on June 18 at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro.

“We’ll have to be ready from Day 1,” Spain coach Vicente del Bosque said after the draw. “With this selection of rivals, we cannot afford to let our concentration slip one bit. The Netherlands will demand our best.”

Spain finishes group play against Australia, where anything but a victory would be a shock.

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