The opening match of Group H sees Algeria come up against a Belgium side that are many peoples dark horses to lift the World Cup trophy in Rio de Janeiro on July 13th.
Belgium cruised through their qualifying group, finishing top of a group that included Croatia, Serbia, Wales, Scotland and Macedonia, with the Red Devils only conceding 4 goals in their 10 matches. They failed to lose a single game during qualifying (Won 8, Drawn 2), with only Germany and the Netherlands taking more points out of all the teams to qualify from Europe.
They boast an array of talented players including Eden Hazard, Adnan Januzaj and Romelu Lukaku, who are among 12 Premier League players to make the 23 man squad for Brazil, with a lot of expectation on Belgium to not only top Group H, but to do well in the knockout stages as well.
Algeria will be looking to improve on their last World Cup campaign in 2010, when they failed to score a single goal in the competition and were knocked out in the group stages after finishing bottom in a group that included England, USA and Slovenia.
Algeria topped their qualifying group, winning 5 of their 6 games against Benin, Mali and Rwanda and qualified for the tournament after defeating Burkina Faso on away goals, after being 3-2 down in the first leg.
Tottenham’s Nabil Bentaleb is the only Premier League player to make the squad, but Championship players Essaid Belkalem and Riyad Mahrez (who will be playing Premier League football with Leicester next season) are also included. You may also recognise former Charlton defender Madjid Bougherra and former Portsmouth midfielder Hassan Yebda.
Expected Line Ups
Thibaut Courtois, Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen, Thomas Vermaelen,Vincent Kompany, Marouane Fellaini, Eden Hazard, Axel Witsel, Kevin De Bruyne, Adnan Januzaj, Romelu Lukaku.
Rais Mbolhi, Mehdi Mostefa, Faouzi Ghoulam, Liassine Cadamuro, Madjid Bougherra, Carl Medjani, Abdelmoume Djabou, Nabil Bentaleb, Saphir Taider, Sofiane Feghouli, Islam Slimani.
- Belgium have more Premier League players in their squad than any other team at the World Cup (Apart from England)
- Only Spain (3) conceded fewer goals in qualifying for the tournament than Belgium (4) (European Qualifiers)
- Algeria failed to score a single goal at the last World Cup
- Eden Hazard created the joint most chances in the Premier League last season (92)
With Christian Benteke ruled out of the tournament, Belgium will be relying heavily on Romelu Lukaku to score the goals to get them through to the knockout stages.
Lukaku has scored 32 Premier League goals in the last two seasons (15 for Everton, 17 for West Brom) and will be looking to continue his fine goalscoring form on the biggest stage. The Belgian forward averaged a goal every 171 minutes last season, hit the target with 63% of his shots and converted an impressive 21% of his chances.
As well as scoring goals, Lukaku also created a chance every 80 minutes last season and got 6 assists and either scored or assisted 34% of Everton’s goals.
With the creativity in the Belgium side, Lukaku will have plenty of chances and if he can continue his goalscoring form then he may be up there for the golden boot at the end of the tournament.
Nabil Bentaleb made his Tottenham debut against Southampton in Tim Sherwood’s first game in charge and went on to make 15 appearances last season.
He was subject to a lot of stick throughout the season, but at only 19 the midfielder in my opinion was wrongly criticised. The midfielder completed 87% of his 685 passes, won possession back every 15 minutes and won 74% of his 39 tackles. He made 26 interceptions, won 51% of his 105 ground duels and 75% of his 12 aerial duels.
As well as helping out in defence, Bentaleb also completed 96% of his passes in his own half and kept the ball moving and recycled possession well for Tottenham last season.
Belgium 2-0 Algeria