World Cup 2014 Group H preview: Belgium v Russia
Belgium (odds-on at 10/11) and Russia (10/3) have faced each other three times history, with the latter being undefeated and winning two of those encounters. The most recent was a 2-0 victory in 2010, with Romelu Lukaku scoring both. He is 6/1 to bag a brace or better again.
That scoreline to occur again in the Red Devils’ favour is 8/1. Their other win over Russia came at the 2002 World Cup. It was 3-2 that day, and that same result is priced at 33/1.
Belgium (2/5 odds-on favourites to top group H) opened their tournament campaign in Brazil with a nervy 2-1 victory over Algeria, after second half goals from Maroune Fellaini and Dries Mertens overturned a 1-0 deficit. Those scorers are priced at 10/3 and 2/1 respectively to net again anytime.
Russia (11/4 to win the group), on the other hand, drew their opener with South Korea 1-1 – again coming from behind. Frontman Aleksandr Kerzhakov got the equalising goal, and he is favourite for the Eastern Europeans to score anytime again at 15/8.
Usually reliable keeper Igor Akinfeev was at fault for the opener, though, as he fumbled (a la Rob Green) a standard long range effort from Lee Keun-Ho through his hands.
But Russia manager Fabio Capello defended his number one stopper. “Just like some players can miss penalties it can happen that a keeper makes a mistake as well,” he explained. “You can accept a mistake from a great keeper like Akinfeev.
“It turned out fine as we were able to make up the difference. I’m very happy with him.”
Belgium boss Marc Wilmots, meanwhile, has said kind words about his compatriot Eden Hazard, following his impressive performance against Russia, where he laid on the pass for Mertens’ finish. He described him as being “one of the best five players in the world”.
The Chelsea attacker (7/4 to score anytime), however, was modest in responsive. “To be honest, I don’t think I deserve it at the moment,” he said. “To be thought of as one of the best five in the world, I would need to score more goals for a start.
“I would really need to score almost every game because that is what the best players in the world – like [Lionel] Messi and [Cristiano] Ronaldo – do every season. I can definitely play better and we can also play better as a group.”
On his side’s chances after coming through the Algeria test, Hazard continued: “We try every day to improve and to make our country proud, and that’s what we will do again against Russia. They are a strong team and it will be another really big test for us.
“But winning our first match has given us confidence. I think we will go out there feeling good and relaxed. And if we play to our best, I think the fans here will enjoy watching us.”