Group H got underway on Tuesday and Belgium kicked off against Algeria in a largely poor game which Belgium came back to win late on 2 1. Belgium have been described as dark horses and one of the favourites in the same sentence by various pundits, which doesn’t make a lot of sense to me as you either fancy them or you don’t.
They’re a young team with a lot of good players but have no tournament experience and are untested at this level. Algeria on the other hand are the kind of team I hate seeing at the World Cup. I have no beef with Algeria or hold any negative opinion of their players. However they’re the type of team who waltz their way through African qualifying, scoring for fun and they get to the World Cup and it’s 11 men behind the ball and it makes for a dour spectacle.
You could argue this is the only way they’d avoid humiliation but many of their players play in top European Leagues. They are awful to watch and surely having a go at teams would see them reach the last 16 for the first time, considering the kind group they’re in.
The game itself saw Belgium have a lot of the ball and really struggle to break Algeria down who basically tried to hit them on the break and were successful in doing so in the first half when they won a penalty after some shocking defending by Tottenham’s Jan Vertonghen. Belgium came back well in the second half and £27m sub Fellaini grabbed an equaliser with Mertens smashing a lovely winner on 80 minutes. It was tough on the Algerians who gave everything and defended well but as a neutral I can’t stand teams at the pinnacle of World Football getting 11 men behind the ball. Belgium had 65% possession but whilst the win is a huge step to qualifying they’ll be worried about their inability to create chances.
The other game in the group saw Russia draw with South Korea in the late kick off on Tuesday. A fairly poor game saw South Korea put a lot of effort in the first half and were probably a little fortunate to take the lead after some poor goal keeping saw the Russian keeper gift them a goal. South Korea visibly tired in the second half and Russia came back into it grabbing a deserved equaliser.
After Algeria showed they’re no push overs the group is wide open. Although there is no obvious big name in the group all 4 teams are evenly matched with Belgium’s quality individuals making them strong favourites before their first game and after their win, to progress.
Belgium face Russia on Sunday afternoon which should be an excellent game and Algeria take on the Koreans at 20.00 the same night. Whatever happens this group should go down to the final game which is excellent as although it was fun to see Spain go out like they did – dead games at the World Cup are never fun.
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