Group H is full of exciting and undiscovered talents. Belgium has come up with huge talents recently, while Algeria and South Korea have young and talented squads. Russia is not paid much attention to as most of their players are in the Russian Premier League, but they are a very talented team.
Belgium is a team with a star-studded lineup, particularly in the Premier League. Pundits and strong followers all over the world have called Belgium to be the dark horse to win the tournament. Although the likelihood of being World Cup Champions is not very high for the “Red Devils”, you can never rule anyone out at the World Cup. This statement is even truer when you look at the spine of their team. Thilbaut Courtois has undergone a fantastic season for Atletico Madrid on loan from Chelsea, and Jan Vertonghen and Vincent Kompany are top level centre-backs. Axel Witsel is an underrated player, and perhaps the most important to the team alongside Kevin De Bruyne and former Everton aerial ace Marouane Fellaini. Eden Hazard will surely steal the headlines, especially after a Chelsea season that put him into contention for EPL player of the year and the Ballon D’Or Top 25. Although Christian Benteke is injured, Belgium can look to Romelu Lukaku of Everton on loan from Chelsea to put it all away. If this Belgian talent produces to their maximum ability, they could knock Argentina out in a likely quarterfinal.
Algeria has some underrated talent in the squad. Because of the Group drawing, Algeria has gone from one of the least promising to one of the most promising squads in Africa, due to Russia’s inability to deliver on the biggest stage in the past. Don’t get it wrong, however; Algeria has a strong squad. Madjid Bougherra has been the captain and leader for years, whereas Faouzi Ghoulam has produced some great football for Napoli at left-back. Ghoulam, along with midfielders Nabil Bentaleb and Saphir Taider show great potential, and Sophiane Feghouli is a beast that is still growing at 25 on the wings. If Algeria can perform, they will move to the next round.
Russia was unlucky to miss out on the knockout stages of Euro 2012 when Greece beat them on head to head score. This time, they are likely to be motivated to do better and to exceed expectations with some fantastic talents in the Russian league. Igor Akinfeev is one of the most on-form shot-stoppers in the world, and Alan Dzagoev bosses the wings at the tender age of 23. Igor Denisov is at the heart of the team, and he bosses the line from defensive midfield. Many believe it will be a tossup between the Russians and Algeria for 2nd in the group. Russia would win without a question on their day, but, much like England, they never deliver on the international stage. One thing is for sure; these Russians are immensely hard to beat on their day. Everyone in their qualifying group, including Portugal, knows this is a fact.
South Korea has a younger generation of players coming in. After the retirement of legend Ji-Sung Park, they seem to have settled for building for the future. This doesn’t mean that South Korea will give up. Stars all over the world play for South Korea, and often they don’t get the praise that they have earned. Ki-Sung Yeung is a fantastic midfielder in the Premier League for Swansea, and Son Heung-Min is a star for Bayer Leverkusen at the tender age of 21. If South Korea can play as well as they did in 2010, they could surprise a few and advance in a group where they are, once again, clear underdogs.
Strengths by Position:
Thilbaut Courtois is, by some distance, the best goalkeeper in the group. At the age of 22, he is one of, if not the best goalkeeper in the world, and for his position, he will still improve until about 32. Igor Akinfeev is the best goalkeeper in Russia, and he has been in fantastic form recently.
- Thilbaut Courtois, Belgium
- Igor Akinfeev, Russia
At the fullback position, although they are centre backs, Belgium will probably start Toby Alderweireld and Thomas Vermaelen. Both are fully capable players at the position. Faouzi Ghoulam is a great player on the left side.
- Thomas Vermaelen, Belgium
- Toby Alderweireld, Belgium
- Faouzi Ghoulam, Russia
In terms of centre backs, there are some great players in the group. Vincent Kompany and Jan Vertonghen are 2 of the best in the world, while Madjid Bougherra is an underrated option.
- Vincent Kompany, Belgium
- Jan Vertonghen, Belgium
- Madjid Bougherra, Algeria
At the anchor position, Axel Witsel is one of the most important players for Belgium in the withdrawn role, and Igor Denisov is the Russian team leader.
- Axel Witsel, Belgium
- Igor Denisov, Russia
In box-to-box midfield, Algeria are talented with Nabil Bentaleb and Saphir Taider bossing the line. Belgium’s Marouane Fellaini shows the form he had at Everton for national team, rather than what he has at Manchester United. Ki-Sung Yeung is also around for South Korea.
- Marouane Fellaini, Belgium
- Saphir Taider, Algeria
- Ki-Sung Yeung, South Korea
- Nabil Bentaleb, Algeria
At the attacking midfield or the 10, Kevin De Bruyne is up for show, although Moussa Dembele may play here for them if manager Marc Wilmots uses his preferred 4-3-3 formation with 3 central midfielders.
On the wings, Eden Hazard, although he hasn’t shown anywhere near his Chelsea form for Belgium, is a star. Kevin Mirallas is also brilliant for Everton, and Alan Dzagoev is talented for Russia. Nobody can rule out La Liga beast Sofiane Feghouli, especially when he is on form.
- Eden Hazard, Belgium
- Kevin Mirallas, Belgium
- Sofiane Feghouli, Algeria
- Alan Dzagoev, Russia
At striker, Romelu Lukaku is a fantastic option, whereas Son Heung-Min prefers a false nine/striker role for South Korea.
- Romelu Lukaku, Belgium
- Son Heung-Min, South Korea
Previews and Predictions:
Belgium vs Algeria:
Belgium will hope to rise to the occasion and trump Algeria on a tough day. Algeria would raise their chances of advancing drastically if they won here, and if they play well, there is no ruling them out.
Unfortunately for the Algerians, all their talent areas are Belgium’s talent areas, and Belgium dwarf them across the pitch other than 1 spot.
Alderweireld vs Ghoulam: Ghoulam will give an out of position Aldrweireld a run for his money. If Ghoulam can pin Alderweireld back, Belgium’s attack may have to go through the left.
Prediction: Belgium 1-0 Algeria; Goals, De Bruyne; MOTM De Bruyne
The match will get to both sides, and they will take it as an experience card. Belgium will get ahead of Algeria.
Russia vs South Korea:
Russia, if they win, get ahead of Algeria in the inevitable race for 2nd. South Korea, if they can pull an upset, will open the key to the next round, if they can get points off Russia.
South Korea wins in attack, and Russia destroy on the perimeter. Russia wins at goalkeeper. There is 1 spot with a tactical battle.
Ki vs Denisov: Ki-Sung Yeung must try and stifle Denisov. If he can, Russia will lose composure and have a tough time stopping South Korea. Expect Russia to just take it here.
Prediction: Russia 0-0 South Korea; MOTM Ki-Sung Yeung
In a dire fixture for both sides, neither will score, ending in a boring draw.
Belgium vs Russia:
Belgium, with 3 points, will make an upset very unlikely with another win. Russia, on the other hand, will need to prove that they can put up a strong performance after a poor start.
Russia Right Wing: Alan Dzagoev will be part of the only tactical battle in the match, as he takes on Belgium’s Thomas Vermaelen. If he can win here, Russia will score at least a goal.
Belgium win across the pitch, and you can expect their inexperience to shine through again.
Prediction: Belgium 1-1 Russia; Goals, Hazard, Dzagoev; MOTM Dzagoev
Belgium won’t convince many that they can advance to the latter stages. Russia will be solid on the day.
Algeria vs South Korea:
Algeria will want to kill the group and slip ahead of Russia, whereas South Korea would probably advance if they pull a win here.
Son vs Bougherra: If Son Heung-Min can get past Bougherra and hands down win this battle, South Korea will have a point here.
Prediction: Algeria 1-1 South Korea; Goals, Feghouli, Son; MOTM Son
Son will make the most of a tough tactical battle and spearhead a great South Korea performance. At this point, Russia and South Korea have 2 points, and Algeria is on 1. Belgium have 4 points to round it off.
Belgium vs South Korea:
A draw would ensure that Belgium advance, but they may want to avoid Germany. South Korea, on the other hand, would sneak into the lead with a win.
Belgium win across the pitch, just because of the talent areas. Expect a performance that is finally convincing.
Prediction: Belgium 3-1 South Korea, Goals, Lukaku, Fellaini, Mirallas, Son; MOTM Lukaku
Romelu Lukaku will have an amazing performance that will see Belgium win. They win the group, and South Korea are all but eliminated.
Algeria vs Russia:
Russia have 1 point more than Algeria, meaning that the latter need to win the match.
Algeria win in midfield core, and they both win on their right wings, respectively. Expect a performance with no tactical battles.
Prediction: Algeria 0-0 Russia; MOTM Akinfeev
Algeria will dominate, but Russia will be too stubborn to let them score. This will be like Russia’s elimination match against Greece.
Final Predicted Table:
Belgium, 7pts, +3 GD
Russia, 3pts, 0 GD
Algeria, 2pts, -1 GD
South Korea, 2pts, -2 GD
Belgium will get 1st and Russia will get 2nd with 3 points.
Match Schedule for Group H (Eastern Time):
Belgium vs Algeria: June 17 @ 12pm
Russia vs South Korea: June 17 @ 6pm
Belgium vs Russia: June 22 @ 12pm
South Korea vs Algeria: June 22 @ 3pm
Belgium vs South Korea: June 26 @ 4pm
Algeria vs Russia: June 26 @ 4pm
Will Belgium and Russia advance? The World Cup will leave us to find out once again. Be sure to watch the World Cup and tune into all the other sections of Entertainment Revisited’s World Cup broadcast.