Belgium-Russia preview - World Cup 2014
Belgium and Russia were the pre-tournament favourites to top Wolrd Cup Group H. But both the teams failed to live up to the expectations in their first matches. Belgium scraped to a 2-1 win against Algeria, while Russia was held to a 1-1 draw by South Korea. It had been expected that this match would decide the group winner. After all those results, this match now has more implications than to merely decide the group winner.
Russia will start as the underdogs for this match. Nothing in their performance against South Korea encourages a bet in their favour. And Belgium is a far more difficult proposition than Korea. While Belgium too struggled in the first half against Algeria, they showed glimpses of their qualification form in the second half. Their first choice strikers were not able to make any impact. However, a couple of substitutions changed Belgium’s fortunes and the complexion of the match altogether.
Russia’s defence appeared shaky at times against South Korea. Belgium forwards will be looking forward to put more pressure on them. Russia, on the other hand, is likely to sit back and wait for counter-attacking opportunities.
Second-half substitutes rescued both the teams in their previous games: Marouane Fellaini and Dries Mertens for Belgium and Aleksandr Kerzhakov for Russia. All these players could earn a start for this game. Belgium’s captain Vincent Kompany is not fully fit. Still, he is expected to play.
A win will ensure Belgium’s knock-out round entry. Expect them to grab it with both hands.
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