2014 FIFA WORLD CUP PREVIEWS – GROUP H

BELGIUM

belgiumThe hype surrounding the Belgian national team ahead of the 2014 FIFA World Cup has been a little offensive. The Red Devils are everyone’s “dark-horse” and considering the Belgians boast some of the most talented youngsters in Europe, it’s perhaps not as surprising as it may first seem. Potential has now become a matter of expectation.
Wilmots’ team cemented their place at the top of their group with a game to spare, beating Croatia to the automatic qualifying slot.
Looking ahead to the tournament, there is a sense that not only is Belgium a strong outsider, but they have evolved into a genuine contender. Granted, there were many who noted a long time ago that players like Romelu Lukaku and Eden Hazard destined for stardom. But they have been joined by the likes of Jan Vertonghen, Thibaut Courtois, Axel Witsel and Vincent Kompany; all players who have developed way beyond expectations in recent seasons. Wonderful for Belgium, and the result is a squad packed with high-calibre, hungry players.
They have been drawn in a relatively easy group but there is a dearth of tournament experience in Wilmot’s team. Their last international tournament was twelve years ago during the World Cup in South Korea and Japan.
With so many talents abound, finding the star man in this young side shouldn’t be farfetched. Manchester City skipper, Vincent Kompany will be expected to lead this side and calm nerves. The Anderlecht academy graduate is a leader of men, his motivational skills, organization and the manner in which he leads by example will all be crucial qualities in the highly stressful atmosphere of a major tournament. de Rode Duivels can expect to make it to the last 8.

 

ALGERIA
Algeria will make only their fourth appearance at the World Cup this summer, and will go into it with growing confidence following the positive strides made by the country since their last appearance at the tournament in 2010 when they failed to score a single goal. Pitted against Burkina Faso in the compulsory African section playoffs, Algeria were facing the very real prospect of missing out on the 2014 World Cup. The Fennec Foxes fell to a 3-2 defeat in Burkina Faso, but were able to sneak through on away goals after a 1-0 win in Blida, with a goal from skipper Bougherra. algeria
Coach Vahid Halihodzic has done his best to integrate some promising young players, especially in attacking areas. Players like Yacine Brahimi, Islam Slimani and Sofiane Feghouli have talent, and they are complimented well by the physical influences of Bougherra and Adlene Guediora. However, Halilhodzic has struggled to introduce similar quality in the defensive positions though, and this is arguably the biggest challenge facing this team ahead of their fourth World Cup bow. But he will be hoping the team can maintain similar solidarity and togetherness to the 2010 side, who were notoriously difficult to break down.
Sofiane Feghouli is the key player for the Fennec Foxes after discussions with the Algerian FA in 2011. The Valencia man is capable of playing from the right-hand side or just off the striker and is without doubt the most potent attacking force for this team. His excellent work-rate will be a key attribute too, especially when the Algerians come up against stronger, technically superior opponents.
The solidarity and togetherness is very unlikely to see them qualify from this group. The North Africans have two strong European teams in Belgium and Russia to contend with. A first round exit is almost certain.

 
RUSSIA
Russia topped Portugal in Group F to qualify for the World Cup and have evolved into a team thoroughly resembling their manager Fabio Capello. Perhaps the biggest indicator of this is the axing of former Russian captain Andrei Arshavin who as you might expect, doesn’t really compliment Capello’s pragmatic approach to management. The Sbornaya will be making their third FIFA World Cup appearance since the breakup of the old Soviet Union and will be aiming to reach the latter stages of the World Cup in 2014. Performances have been positive under the former England manager, his team normally sets out in a 4-2-3-1 formation but Capello isn’t afraid to switch things around should he feel the need to do so. The likes of Igor Akinfeev, Yuri Zhirkov and captain Igor Denisov complimenting the younger talents of Alan Dzagoeve and Aleksandr Kokorin provide a much needed blend of experience and youth. russia
Capello will be looking to better his previous World Cup performance with England in 2010. In South Africa the Three Lions were down right boring to watch and were given a lesson by a vibrant young Germany outfit in the last-16.
Alan Dzagoev is the chief playmaker for the side, taking over from Andrey Arhavin, who failed to make the squad. Dzagoev can play in a number of positions behind the striker but is best deployed in a central role, where his passing and dribbling skills greatly benefit the side.
With a glittering CV, the one thing missing from Capello’s resume is a success with an international team. Luckily for Capello, this Russia side should be hungry for exactly that. They looked the business after their first match in Euro 2012, but faltered in their other two group games and ultimately failed to qualify. Making it to the next round should not be a problem in this fairly decent group.

 

SOUTH KOREA
South Korea are making their seventh consecutive appearance at the FIFA World Cup and have been pitted against Algeria, Belgium, and Russia in Group H; the Taegeuk Warriors, who are currently ranked 55th in the world face a real challenge if they want to qualify out of their group. Memories of their fairy tale run to the semi-finals in 2002 as co-host is still fresh in the Asian country. While the crowd back home always expects Korea to put on a decent showing at any international event, the FIFA World Cup in Brazil may not be a particularly rewarding adventure for Bo’s men. Kim B0-Kyung and Ki Seung-Yeung are the midfield generals of whom a lot is expected, but when you put players like Andrea Pirlo or Xavi Hernandez in perspective, it’s easy to see that Korea are still a long way off the mark in terms of quality. One thing the Koreans do have is the legs; however the summer heat in Brazil is expected to be another factor that will weigh down the warriors of the eastern hemisphere.
Aside from that, there is little genuine quality within their ranks. Much depends on Son Heung Min, who has the capability to create and score goals. Ki Sung Yeung is coming into the World Cup after an excellent season with Sunderland too.
Explosive attacker Son Heung-Min is the Koreans’ most lethal weapon going forwards. His versatility and clinical finishing offers Bo a different dimension in attack while his slaloming runs are sure to cause concern amongst opposition defenders. At 21, the pacey two-footed former Hamburg man notched up ten Bundesliga goals in 31 appearances during the 2013-14 campaign, and currently has six international goals in his account. The world is expected to keep a close eye on the prodigy and see whether or not he can live up to his potential and burst onto the big frame in classic fashion.
South Korea’s exit from the group stages won’t ring many bells around the footballing world. An early exit beckons. south korea

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