Group H in the 2014 FIFA World Cup has Belgium, Algeria, South Korea and Russia. Belgium is the sexiest dark horse in the tournament, South Korea has relentless players with seemingly endless stamina, Russia can attack in different formations and Algeria tactically gets it right most of the time.
Belgium is a dark horse in the 2014 FIFA World Cup because they can play in a variety of ways. You want to be bludgeoned, the Red Devils can do that. You want slick passing? Belgium can do that. You want defensive emphasis, Belgium can do that as well! Finally, you fancy offensive and attacking emphasis? They can do that too. Belgium is anchored and captained by Manchester City’s Vincent Kompany. Kompany is one of the best centrebacks in the world and speaks all the languages in Belgium: Flemish (Belgian Dutch), French, German, Dutch and English. That’s important because there are so many cultural divisions in the squad and in the country. Also, be on watch for Romelu Lukaku up top as their number nine. With the absence of Christian Benteke, Lukaku has to score goals and hold the ball for attacking midfielders Eden Hazard, Kevin de Bruyne, Adnan Januzaj and Kevin Mirallas.
Algeria is 22nd in the FIFA World Rankings and qualified for the World Cup finals by beating Burkina Faso. They are the least sexy of the four teams with respect to name recognition, but they are always tidy! Algeria is tactically sound although their defense is their weakest part of their team. Look out for Sofiane Feghouli, Islam Slimani, Saphir Taider and Madjid Bougherra. Look for coach Vahid Halilhodžić to use a 4-2-3-1.
South Korea’s midfield is technically sound, has superior fitness and plenty of attacking options. Watch for Son Heung-Min. The 21-year-old has been one of the Bundesliga’s top players, scoring 24 goals in all competitions with Leverkusen and Hamburg SV in the last two years. Head Coach Hong Myung-Bo was one of South Korea’s best players when they made their splash in the 2002 World Cup and he most likely will utilize a 4-2-3 -1.
The Russian Football Union loves Capello so much they extended his contract through the 2018 World Cup (which will be held in Russia) because he was able to guide them to their first World Cup finals appearance in 12 years. Capello’s charge is to get Russia ready for that tournament and has said Brazil 2014 by comparison is “rehearsal.” With that established the Russians have a strong chance of making it out of the group with Viktor Fayzulin in a possible central attacking midfield role, creating chances for Aleksandr Kokorin, Aleksandr Kerzhakov and Aleksandr Samedov up front in a 4-3-3.
I believe Belgium can sweep this group with relative ease. However the battle between Russia and South Korea for the second qualifying place in Group H will be settled on June 17 when the Russians face off against South Korea. If they draw, the winner will probably advance on goal difference. I predict Belgium, South Korea, Russia and Algeria will be the order of finish in Group H.
DATE TIME MATCH
JUN. 17 12:00 PM BELGIUM VS. ALGERIA
JUN. 17 6:00 PM RUSSIA VS. SOUTH KOREA
JUN. 22 12:00 PM BELGIUM VS. RUSSIA
JUN. 22 3:00 PM SOUTH KOREA VS. ALGERIA
JUN. 26 4:00 PM SOUTH KOREA VS. BELGIUM
JUN. 26 4:00 PM ALGERIA VS. RUSSIA