World Cup Group H Preview
By Grant Becker
Preview: In a group that looks rather predictable on paper, Belgium and Russia will like how the draw set them up. Russia won their qualifying group, allowing Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal to take just one of six points from their two head to head matches. Belgium’s hopes ride on the shoulders of a youthful and uber-talented team. Too many people have Belgium penciled in as the dark horse for them to be a dark horse anymore. Algeria have assembled a squad with players from many of Europe’s top leagues, with plenty of promise for the future. South Korea may just be happy to have qualified, as they will struggle to earn any points at all.
Key Match: The winner of this group will either be Russia or Belgium, making their matchup by far the most important of the group. The Russians will be one of the most organized and fit squads at the World Cup, making victory difficult for the exciting Belgian squad. The winner of this match is bound to be the team that wins the battle in the midfield. Marc Wilmots has formed a tactically dangerous side via his 4-5-1 formation, with Axel Witsel holding the triangular midfield together. This could certainly be the biggest chess match of the group stages; soccer nerds everywhere can hardly contain their excitement.
X-Factor: Young Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku will have the weight of the world on his shoulders as Christian Benteke has suffered a season ending injury. Lukaku has produced two brilliant goal-scoring seasons in the PL, but it is yet to be seen if he can maintain that level of play for his national side. If Lukaku can bring his club form to the World Cup, the Belgians will be one of the toughest teams in the whole tournament to knock out.
Prediciton: Belgium 7, Russia 7, Algeria 3, Korea Republic 0. The Koreans will put up a good fight in each match, but will end up on the wrong end of the score sheet. Neither Belgium nor Russia will be able to find a winner against each other. Algeria will show what they have against the Koreans, but they simply won’t have what it takes to knock off the Russians or the Belgians.