Belgium v Russia Preview

Group H | Sunday 22 June | Estádio Maracanã, Rio de Janeiro | 18:00




World Cup dark horses Belgium will be hoping to pick up from where they left off against Algeria when they take on their biggest threat in Group H, Russia.

After being held to a draw by South Korea in their opening match, Fabio Capello’s side will be hoping for their first victory in the tournament against a talented Red Devil’s side.

For Belgium, a win will all but seal qualification to the next round. For Russia, a win will see them leapfrog the Belgians for top spot in the group, but a loss will put their chances of advancing to the last 16 in major doubt.

To Win (90mins)
Belgium 19/20 
Draw 24/10 
Russia 28/10

BELGIUM

Belgium started the tournament as the favourite to top Group H. However, they faced a tough challenge in their opening match against a comparatively weaker team in Algeria.

Belgium’s much-hyped team of talented young stars were presented with a taste of adversity after Algeria took a 1-0 first half lead.

Eventually, the Belgians’ advantage in quality shone through as they battled back to claim a 2-1 win. Substitute Dries Mertens was a game-changer for Belgium with his pace on the wings.

He’ll likely start against Russia, where that same pace opposite Eden Hazard can stretch a Russian defence that has proven tough to break down.

The other goal-scoring sub, Marouane Fellaini, should also get the start after his similarly strong performance.

If their tricky wingers fail to provide penetration, then the brute force of Fellaini could simply overpower Russia’s defenders.

One player whose place in the starting 11 may be in question is striker Romelu Lukaku. The Chelsea striker who spent last season on loan at Everton was below-par against Algeria, and was rightly withdrawn at the hour mark.

He should keep his place for one more game, but Belgium will need a decisively better Lukaku to be more active and lead the forward line against Russia. 

RUSSIA

The loss of Russian captain Roman Shirokov for the World Cup due to a lingering back issue was widely expected to negatively affect the team, and his presence was definitely missed in their 1-1 draw against South Korea.

Russia lacked the dynamism from midfield that Shirokov would’ve provided, and offered very little going forward.

Of course, it didn’t help that Capello opted for a very conservative starting line-up which had the attacking talents of Alan Dzagoev and Aleksandr Kerzhakov on the bench.

It was no surprise that Russia only became a more threatening force when those two were introduced after the Russians had gone behind.

Kerzhakov scored Russia’s equalizer, his 26th career international goal.

The Russians’ chances of scoring will markedly improve with them starting, but if Capello went the conservative route against a relatively weak South Korean team, then expect his tactics against the much more dangerous Belgians to be even more defensive.

The Italian manager has now drawn three of his five career World Cup games. On the bright side though, Russia’s defensive organization was as good as advertised.

South Korea hardly created a threatening chance on Igor Akinfeev’s goal, and required a horrendous blunder by the Russian ‘keeper to gift the Koreans a goal.

Another howler from goalkeeper Akinfeev against Belgium could see the end of Russia’s World Cup dreams.

Betting Prediction: BELGIUM 19/20
These two sides have met eachother eight times before. Belgium have won three times, while Russia have won four and one ended in a draw. There have been 22 goals scored in those matches, with Russia bagging 12 of those and Belgium 10. This will be a highly competitive match which will probably decide the top two positions in Group H. Although the stats favour Russia, Belgium have never had a better side. Their quality should prove to be the decisive factor to claim another close victory. 

Written by Chadley Nagel for @Hollywoodbets. Follow them both on Twitter and Facebook now! 

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