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World Cup Group H Preview

The much fancied Belgians (hard to imagine a less likely sentence) are joined by Algeria, Russia and South Korea. The Belgians are widely tipped to advance to the knockout round, the question is who joins them.

Dean Mouhtaropoulos

The Sides

Belgium - 12 appearances, 4th (1986)

South Korea - 9 appearances, 4th (2002)

Algeria - 4 appearances, group stage

Russia - 2 appearances, group stage

That the Belgians are everyones dark horse at the world cup is perhaps the least remarkable thing about this Belgian side. This is a side that plays brilliant and adventurous soccer that would bring rounds of applause from neutrals the world over. If they were Dutch grand allusions to the beloved 1974 squad would be made, but they are Belgian so they are not.

What this team does have is quality at every position. A formidable spine that runs from Manchester City's Vincent Kompany, and Aresenal's Thomas Vermaelen, through Alex Witsel at defensive mid, to Marouane Fellaini and finally Romelu Lukaku at striker gives the lads from the land of chocolate a formidable base from which strike at opponents. WIth Kevin Mirallas, Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyn there is no shortage of attacking options from the midfield in the Belgians preferred 4-1-4-1 approach.

The question is with such a forward looking approach can the Belgian's defend in a tournament where we know that the surest way to win is not to leak a goal? Russia for one is eager to test that theory. The Russian's won't be as proactive as the Belgian's will, likely deploying their forces in a more sensible 4-3-3. They will defend in packs and leave it to their front three to do the business of scoring the goals. The key man in their transition attack is Denis Glushakov, their point man in the middle of the mid field tasked with snuffing out the attack and igniting the Russian's own with precise passes in transition. This group will come down to Russians and Belgians.

Unfortunately for South Korea and Algeria they simply won't have the wherewithal to nab a second place finish and a ticket to the knockout rounds barring a complete collapse from the two favorites. The South Koreans have the best chance to advance. They generally play the kind of competent and compact football that gums up the works for their opponents and allows them to attack with speed on the break. They are capable of such a performance but it remains unlikely.

As for Algeria, well fuck them for 2010. Pardon my French.