• No injury or suspension issues arising from 2-1 win over Algeria, so full squad at their disposal.
• Wilmots must decide whether to stick with original approach or adopt more direct one with Fellaini. • Mertens and Origi will also be hopeful of starts after strong showings from the bench in opener.
Expected Team (4-2-3-1)
Marc Wilmots has a number of selection dilemmas ahead of his side’s second Group H game with Russia this Sunday, after his original tactics were found wanting in the narrow opening 2-1 victory over Algeria.
Dries Mertens, Divock Origi and Marouane Fellaini made big impacts off the bench and turned the game in Belgium’s favour there, with the former and latter each scoring a goal and the young striker adding a new dimension to the previously ponderous attack. His inclusion from the outset here would be the most surprising, but Romelu Lukaku did look some way short of match sharpness and options are very limited.
Right-winger Mertens is probably the most likely of the trio to enter the starting eleven, with his inclusion possibly allowing Kevin De Bruyne to move into his favoured role off the striker. Nacer Chadli is set to drop to the bench after failing to do enough to convince in that position against the stubborn Algerians and coming off at the interval.
Fellaini provides the biggest headache for his coach, though, such was the way in which his size and aerial ability swung the game. He usually features in a deeper role alongside Axel Witsel and could take Moussa Dembele’s place, but may be held back to provide a plan B should the Russians prove similarly difficult to break down. Wilmots could switch him and De Bruyne too, with the latter playing his best stuff when moved back to central midfield and having more space on Tuesday.
Bench (from): Bossut GK, Mignolet GK, Vanden Borre RB/LB, Ciman CB, Lombaerts CB, Vermaelen CB/LB, Defour CM, Dembele CM/AM/LW, Chadli RW/LW/AM, Januzaj RW/LW/SS, Mirallas RW/LW, Origi ST
Tactical Keys to the Game:
Motivational Keys to the Game:
• GK Akinfeev had a poor game against South Korea, if he does play his confidence may be fragile.
• They may make changes in central midfield to bring more composure on the ball into the team.
• Kerzhakov came off the bench to good effect against South Korea, he is expected to play a bigger role here.
Expected Team (4-5-1)
No injury problems reported at this stage. It is likely there will be some changes to the starting XI with Russia uninspiring in their creative and attacking play until coach Fabio Capello made his substitutions, this is not to say they will go with a much greater attacking mindset from the start of this match.
Alan Dzagoev came off the bench to give Russia much more composure and creativity from the centre of the field. Shatov who was given the starting role generally offered little in these aspects and Dzagoev replacing him in the starting XI is a likely change. Denisov coming in is another possible change in the central midfield area. Glushakov breaks up play well but his use of the ball can give away possession too easily, though Capello does seem to like what Glushakov offers and he may just keep his place.
In the strikers role Kokorin started against Korea though they looked more of a threat when Kerzhakov came off the bench and Kokorin switched to a deeper wider position replacing Zhirkov. It seems Kerzhakov may start this game but the decision is whether Kokorin of Zhirkov starts on the left wing. If they were playing Algeria it may have been Kokorin but against the strongest team in the group Zhirkov may just be preferred for extra defensive protection.
Following the big error by Akinfeev in gifting South Korea their goal his
place may come under threat, Lodygin the probable replacement only has 3 caps though and it would be no surprise if Akinfeev did start again.
Bench (from): Lodygin GK, Ryzhikov GK, Kozlov RB, Granat CB/LB, Semenov CB/RB, Schennikov LB, Denisov CM/DM, Mogilevets CM, Shatov CM/LW, Ionov RW/LW, Kanunnikov ST/LW, Kokorin ST/SS
Tactical Keys to the Game:
Motivational Keys to the Game:
Anything less than a win could leave Russia’s fate out of their own hands going into the final match against Algeria. Russia were expected to progress from a favourable group and failure to do so would be a big let-down.
Bettorlogic Betting Preview:
Belgium (16) v Russia (21), Saturday 21st June 20:00 BST
Both of these sides survived scares in their first game. After going behind to Algeria midway through the first half Belgium looked toothless until a gutsy substitution from Marc Wilmots changed the game. Russia were solid defensively against an energetic South Korea and probably wouldn’t have conceded were it not for a catastrophic goalkeeping error from the usually solid Igor Akinfeev. Akinfeev captained CSKA Moscow to the domestic success this season.
We mentioned before the tournament that we preferred Belgium’s defence to their attack despite the riches of talent they have in the latter department. Although Algeria were competent in their opener it’s unlikely they would have scored had Spurs’ defender Jan Vertonghen not fallen asleep at the back post and got himself on the wrong side of Feghouli.
Belgium have now won eight of nine unbeaten competitive matches with five wins to nil. They are also unbeaten in eight matches against teams ranked 11-30, albeit with five stalemates (five HT draws). Russia’s 1-1 draw with South Korea marked their sixth Under 2.5 Goals game in their last eight (four HT draws) and they’ve had the same number of Under 2.5 Goals games in their last eight Finals matches.
There have been nine previous second group matches since 1990 at World Cups, Copa Americas, African Cup of Nations and Euros where a side has won their opener and is ranked 1-15 places higher than an opponent who has drawn their first match. Surprisingly only once has the higher ranked side won as they’ve lost five times and seven of the matches have had fewer than three goals.
This World Cup has been very high-scoring so far and we’re not overly keen to tip up Under Goals at 1.75 but at odds-against a half-time draw is very appealing.