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World Cup

  • June 22, 2014
  • • 17:00
  • • Estadio Jornalista Mário Filho (Maracanã), Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro
  • Referee: F. Brych
  • • Attendance: 73819
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Belgium - Russia Preview: Hazard & Co look to secure progress

Belgium - Russia Preview: Hazard & Co look to secure progress

Marc Wilmots' side were unconvincing in their opener against Algeria and will look to improve against Fabio Capello's men

By Greg Stobart in Rio de Janeiro

Belgium made hard work of their first match in World Cup Group H but Marc Wilmots’ much-hyped side managed to come from behind to beat Algeria.

As favourites to win the group, Belgium can expect to again face a team prepared to sit deep and defend in numbers when they play Russia on Sunday.

The main injury concern for Belgium is a groin problem for Vincent Kompany, but the captain is expected to lead his side out again at the Maracana, providing vital leadership and quality in the heart of the defence.

Romelu Lukaku was disappointing in the 58 minutes he played against Algeria but the Chelsea striker will continue to lead the line for Belgium, with his pace and power likely to cause problems for Russia’s slow defence.

The most likely change for Belgium is a starting place for Marouane Fellaini after the Manchester United midfielder came off the bench to score against Algeria, with Tottenham winger Nacer Chadli likely to make way. The other scorer against the north Africans – Dries Mertens – is also pushing for a start.

Wilmots has claimed that Eden Hazard is among the top five players in the world but to prove it the Chelsea forward will have to improve on his record of six international goals in 45 matches. He could make the difference and provide the extra quality to get past Russia.

Russia goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev made the mistake of the tournament so far – and there have been a few – when he spilled the ball into his own net in the 1-1 draw with South Korea.

It was the nadir of a shaky display throughout the game for Akinfeev but Russia coach Fabio Capello has insisted he will not change his goalkeeper to face Belgium.

Russia are unbeaten in their last 11 matches under Fabio Capello but they lacked drive and quality on the ball against South Korea, with Roman Shirokov’s influence badly missed in midfield as he misses the tournament through injury.

As he looks to guide Russia to just their third ever victory at the World Cup finals, Capello may hand a start to 31-year-old striker Alexander Kerzhakov after his equaliser as a substitute in the first game.

Players to watch

R. Lukaku

Position: Attacker

Games: 4

  • 1
  • 0
  • 0
Belgium have bags of attacking quality in attack but Lukaku can lead the line and act as a foil for the likes of Eden Hazard. It didn’t work out for the Chelsea striker against Algeria but he can bully the Russian defenders with his physicality if he is able to reproduce the form he has shown in the Premier League over the last two seasons.

A. Kokorin

Position: Attacker

Games: 3

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  • 0
  • 0
The star man of Russia’s qualifying campaign struggled in their opening match but will be largely responsible for providing some quality on the counter-attack against Belgium. Kokorin will be expected to lead the line when Russia host the World Cup in 2018 and faces a stern test of his quality against Vincent Kompany.

Editor's Prediction

It may take a patient 90 minutes for Belgium against a side that will look to make it difficult for them, but Marc Wilmots’ side have plenty of potential matchwinners and options off the bench. They should find a way to break down Russia, particularly on a big pitch at the Maracana.

Last Five Matches

Head To Head

Belgium

Russia

Wins
3
1
0
Wins

Betting & Predictions

Reader's Predictions

Belgium BEL
Belgium Belgium
Draw
Russia RUS
Russia Russia
69%
17%

Top 3 Predictions

Belgium BEL
2 - 1
Russia RUS
Belgium BEL
2 - 0
Russia RUS
Belgium BEL
3 - 1
Russia RUS

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