World Cup Group H Preview - Belgium, Russia, South Korea, Algeria

Published Monday, June 2, 2014 8:57 AM by Jaime Nenclares

Group H is a very interesting group composed of Belgium, Russia, Algeria, and South Korea. Other than the Belgium side this group is not loaded with star players. Belgium are clear favorites. Second place and advancement to the knockout phase is a bit more tricky. Vying for the second spot in the group stage are Russia and South Korea. Russia has a solid team that managed to qualify atop of their group that included Portugal, but has never travelled well in previous tournaments. One cannot forget that South Korea is rich in World Cup experience having qualified for the past eight tournaments. This leaves Algeria as the last place team most likely barring a major upset.

Belgium- Belgium managed to qualify to the WC undefeated and have the potential to become one of the more feared teams in the world. They have an abundance of riches in their attack with players like Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku, Dries Mertens, Kevin Mirallas, Kevin De Bruyne, and the youngster Adnan Januzaj. As long as Lukaku does as well as he did with Everton at the beginning of the season, then Benteke won't even be missed. Their attack lacks experience but their midfield core and their defensive line is full of experience with players like Vincent Kompany, Jan Vertonghen, Daniel Van Buyten and Toby Alderwield, three of which are in teams that have won domestic titles this year. Belgium should not be considered dark horses anymore and if their midfield core of Axel Witsel and Marouane Fellaini can help in defense and manage to combine well with Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard then Belgium might make a deep run in Brazil.

Russia- Russia does not have a squad full of stars like Belgium but they work well as a team and managed to win in their qualifying group despite having Portugal in it. Any team managed by the legendary Fabio Capello cannot be underestimated. Their main players are Igor Akinfeev and Alan Dzagoev. Both play in the Russian league and Akinfeev's team only conceded 26 goals this season in the Russian league. They have experienced players but they all lack World Cup experience since this is their first World Cup in 12 years. They will most likely clinch the second spot and make it to the next round ahead of South Korea.

South Korea- South Korea were in the last World Cup and they managed to advance from a group that contained Argentina, Greece, and Nigeria. Now, 4 years later, South Korea has been drawn with Belgium and Russia. Nobody can forget their fourth place finish in the 2002 World Cup on home soil, but it is highly unlikely that they will achieve such heights in this World Cup. They have some good players such as Son Heung-Min from Bayern Leverkusen, Ki Sung-Yueng from Swansea, and Park Chu-Young from Arsenal. Their target man will be Son from Bayern Leverkusen and if he can find his shooting boots during the tournament then South Korea might have a decent chance of getting out of their group.

Algeria- Algeria are the minnows and will most likely finish fourth in this group unless Bentaleb from Tottenham and Feghouli from Valencia have amazing performances against Belgium, Russia, and South Korea. They all lack experience and many of them have fewer than 10 caps. Their games against Belgium and Russia will most likely result in defeat but they may be able to grab a result against South Korea.   The squad has World Cup experience though just not enough guns to compete at this level.

Key Group H match - With Belgium the clear favorites the swing match of the entire group should take place on the first matchday as Russia and South Korea square off.  The loser here is most likely facing an early exit. The winner needing to only beat Algeria to secure advancement. A draw will throw the group into chaos as it will be a dogfight to get a result against Belgium and get max points off Algeria.