Group H might not be the most enterprising group of the tournament, but it is certainly the most intriguing. Belgium are without a doubt, the standout team in this Group and would be expected to qualify as Group winners. But, who takes second spot is still open for debate. Russia look like the most plausible candidate, but they are known to be inconsistent. Although South Korea aren’t as good as they were in 2002, they still have some quality going forward. Algeria on the other hand, have a young, attacking and enterprising unit and are known for making it difficult for the big sides, which would make them a threat for anyone.
Group H Schedule
|Match No.||Fixture||Date||Time (IST)||Location|
|15||Belgium v Algeria||June 17||21:30||Belo Horizonte|
|16||Russia v South Korea||June 18||03:30||Cuiaba|
|31||Belgium v Russia||June 22||21:30||Rio de Janiero|
|32||South Korea v Algeria||June 23||00:30||Porto Alegre|
|47||South Korea v Belgium||June 27||01:30||Sao Paolo|
|48||Algeria v Russia||June 28||01:30||Curitiba|
All six encounters in Group H will be hosted by different cities - Belo Horizonte, Cuiaba, Rio de Janeiro, Porto Alegre, Sao Paulo and Curitiba. Most of the games will be played in mild weather conditions, which is set to give the team going through a big advantage as the tournament progresses.
|Estadio Mineirao, Belo Horizonte||58,259||800 m|
|Arena Pantanal, Cuiaba||39,859||165 m|
|Estadio do Maracana, Rio de Janiero||74,689||Sea-level|
|Estadio Beira-Rio, Porto Alegre||42,991||47 m|
|Arena Corinthians, Sao Paolo||61,606||742 m|
|Arena de Baixada||38,533||920 m|
Estadio Mineirao, Belo Horizonte
Located in the third largest city in Brazil, it took three years and £185m to give the historic Estadio Mineirao its stunning brand-new look. Described by FIFA secretary Jerome Valcke as, the stadium will host a semi-final.
Arena Pantanal, Cuiaba
One of the smallest stadiums, purpose-built for the World Cup, Arena Pantanal will host four group games. Situated in the western part of Brazil, the region experiences some scorching heat, so it is unlikely that any of the clashes are fast and furious.
Estadio do Maracana, Rio de Janeiro
The historical Maracana, which could hold 200,000 people and played host to the 1950 FIFA World Cup, underwent major reconstruction prior to the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup. This new stadium will host the opening and closing ceremonies, along with this year’s final.
Estadio Beira-Rio, Porto Alegre
Situated the furthest south of the host cities, Estadio Beira-Rio faces a frenetic finish to see if all the amenities inside the stadium can be completed on time. One of the coolest of all the 12 venues, it will play host four Group games and one second-round clash.
Arena Corinthians, Sao Paulo
Situated on a plateau in the south-east, on the Atlantic coast, this is a high-altitude stadium and one that will be the new home to the famous Corinthians football club. The brand-new stadium will play host to the opening match of the tournament between Brazil and Croatia.
Arena da Baixada, Curitiba
The second-highest stadium in this year’s world cup, the stadium is located in one of Brazil’s coolest places, one which even saw snow fall this year. Home to Atletico Paranaense, this stadium was almost stripped off its World Cup hosting rights after a flurry of delays, but has now been given the green light to host four Group stage encounters.
FIFA Ranking: 11
Key Player: Eden Hazard
Having cruised through qualifying with only two draws, Belgians come into this tournaments as one of the dark-horses for the title. Not only do they have a very talented squad, but they also strength in depth. They come into the World Cup, with arguably the world’s best keeper in goal, a strong defence, a midfield that is the envy of many and an in-form striker to lead the line.
The Golden generation of Belgians hope to recreate what their predecessors did back in 1986 when they finished fourth and were Maradona away from playing in their maiden final. Although this current crop is unlikely to go as far, they look to set to dazzle their opposition with a whole host of creative players, who are in fine form.
For more information, read Belgium Team Preview.
FIFA Ranking: 19
Key Player: Sergei Ignashevitch
After failing to qualify for the 2010 World Cup, the Russians made up for that disappointment by topping their Group in the European qualifying zone, ahead of the much fancied Portugal outfit. After being booted out of England in 2010, Fabio Capello took a step down the ladder and has so far flourished. He has taken a shaky defence into one that conceded just five goals in qualifying. With Roman Shirokov, Igor Denisov and Viktor Fayzulin, they have a very strong and balanced midfield and an attack that has the potential to cause a problem or two.
Arguably the second-best team in the group, they will be hoping to get into the second round, in which they will likely be facing Germany. While Capello will be looking to redeem himself in this World Cup, it is going to be incredibly difficult. Whether they finish first or second, they will have to beat either Germany or Portugal to go through, which looks highly unlikely, given the lack of talent at his disposal right now.
FIFA Ranking: 22
Key Player: Saphir Taider
The Algerians might have only reached Brazil via a play-off against Burkina Faso and might be the overwhelming underdogs in Group H, but they have the potential to cause an upset or two. They have a talented but young bunch of players, some of whom ply their trade in Europe for some less-fancied sides.
The likes of Sofiane Feghouli, Nabil Ghilas, Saphir Taider and Ishak Belfodil form a core group of players who will be key to their chances. The fact that they are the highest ranked African side in this World Cup shows that they are by no means a pushover. Renowned for pulling off some famous World Cup shocks, like West Germany in 1982 and England in 2010, Algeria will be looking to throw a spanner into the works of the other three sides, while at the same time hoping to finish second and go through to the Round of 16.
FIFA Ranking: 57
Key Player: Son Heung-Min
Whilst they are nowhere near as good as the 2002 side that reached the semi-finals, the South Koreans are still a force to be reckoned with. A nerve-wracking qualifying campaign saw them finally qualify for Brazil, but not without some nails being bitten. But, with an exciting midfield led by Son Heung-Min, the Koreans do have goals in them.
Unfortunately, they are nowhere near as good as the back and that might just mean they will end up in a scrap for third-place with Algeria. While it is true that they might turn out to be a surprise package, given the lack of talent at their disposal, especially in defence, it is hard to see them even getting out of the group, let alone going further.
Belgium vs Algeria: The group’s first game will tell us how good this Belgian outfit really is and whether they are worthy of their underdogs tag. It will tell if this Algeria are underdogs or just underrated.
Belgium vs Russia: The last time these two met was in the 2002 World Cup, where current Belgian Coach Marc Wilmots scored a winner. Should his side manage the same this time around, they will be guaranteed of top spot and will likely avoid Germany in the Round of 16.
The Belgians are without a doubt, the overwhelming favourites to claim top spot. Their strength and depth means that is very likely, thus making the scrap for second place something to watch out for. Russia look favourite to claim that spot, but both Algeria and South Korea will be looking to play spoil sports and register a famous victory over the Russians. But, the experience of Capello might just help Russia beat them both and claim second spot.
Whatever happens, one thing is for sure, whoever finishes in the top two are set to face some fierce competition in the Round of 16.
To read other Group Previews, click here: FIFA World Cup Group PreviewsPublished 09 Jun 2014, 17:01 IST