World Cup 2014 – Group H Match Preview: Belgium vs. Russia

22 Jun
Belgians training at Marcana

The Belgian Red Devils practice in the fabled Maracana

When: Sunday, June 22, 2014 local time 1PM
Where: Rio de Janeiro,
Stadium: Estadio do Maracana

MaracanaStadium capacity: 78,838
Pitch Status: concerns for pitch after repeated game days. This will be the third match on the pitch for the World Cup
Referee: Felix Brych (GER)

Previous Meetings: The Belgians have met the Russians 8 previous times, including when Russia was part of the Soviet Union. The only times the Russians have beaten the Belgians was when they were playing under the Soviet Union. The last three meetings resulted in two wins by Belgium and a draw.

Team news: Things continue to be quiet in the Russian camp, excluding the news that Coach Fabio Capello will stand with beleaguered goal keeper Akinfeev and the increased Russian concern about the coaching style of Mr. “Highest Paid Coach in the World Cup” Capello. Meanwhile, the Belgians continue to present a calm face, despite the disappointing showing against Algeria. However, three points will do that! The best news from the Belgian camp is that Skipper Vincent Kompany is practicing with the team and is expected to anchor the defense against Russia.

Pic 3Kompany trainingBelgium also continues to be a presence on social media with tweets and facebook posts keeping fans of the Belgian Red Devils well in the know. And we have more questions for the team! This time, Thibaut and Romelu share their thoughts.

Team Strengths: This is still Belgium’s group to lose. They have both the firepower and the talent to beat the Russians and it will be surprising if they underestimate the Russian squad, which they may have done with the Fennec Foxes. Thibaut Courtois was not tested very often in the Algeria match but fans of La Liga know his strong performances with Atletico Madrid. Dries Mertens has the speed and desire to push the attack and will be one to watch. Coming on as a truly super sub in the Algeria game, it will be interesting if he makes the starting lineup or will be the not-so-secret weapon for the second half. Belgium needs to stay awake and watch for the Russian strong (often sloppy) play in the midfield, which could cause some dangerous fouls or free kicks.

Russia is not powerless in this match. They will be highly motivated to improve their performance against South Korea as future hosts of the World Cup. While their keeper situation is highly, highly suspect, their strong line of defense with the CSKA Moscow boys, Ignashevich and Beretzutsky, are incredibly in sync with each other and can be dangerous in the air on free kicks. They also give confidence to Eschenko to run ahead and cause trouble along the flanks. Kokorin has not shone his full promise yet but Fabio Capello has confidence in the Dynamo Moscow man.

Team Weaknesses: Russia’s problems are more than just a shaky goalkeeper. Their play in the previous game was sloppy and their ability to finish chances was fortunately as bad as the South Koreans. They will not face this advantage with the Belgians. For Belgium, Russia’s strong defense will cause trouble for the strikers. Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku were both marked out of the game with Algeria. It is likely they will have a similar problem with the boys from Moscow in defense. Dries Mertens has the speed that could counteract that but he will have to be patient and persistent.

Prediction from International Business Times: 2-1 Belgium

My prediction: 2-0 Belgium

– ForzaSusan



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