Group H Profile: Belgium back on the big stage with mouth-watering talent

The Northern Echo: Chelsea's Eden Hazard makes his World Cup bow with Belgium Chelsea's Eden Hazard makes his World Cup bow with Belgium

A tight group on paper, but all eyes will be on Belgium’s golden generation to see if they can make an impact on the big stage.

It is 12 years since they last took part in a World Cup in Japan and South Korea, but Marc Wilmots’ talented pool of players eased through qualification, winning eight out of ten and keeping six clean sheets in the process.

Man for man they have one of the strongest squads in the tournament with talent engulfing all areas of the field. Atletico Madrid stopper Thibaut Courtouis, Manchester City’s Vincent Kompany, Chelsea’s Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku provide a mouth-watering spine with several other big names waiting in the wings.

The drawback for this group of sought-after individuals is that only Daniel van Buyten has World Cup experience, but the bulk of these players have come through the international ranks together.

Since sealing their place in Brazil, Belgium have stuttered, and even if they do progress from the group stages you feel their potential won’t be properly tested until they meet one of the heavyweights of world football.

For their part, Russia will also travel to Brazil with lofty ambitions, the 2018 hosts keen to perform before welcoming the world in four years time, but they will have to overcome a hideous record at major tournaments to do so.

Under the watch of former England boss Fabio Capello, Russia have taken strides in the right direction and must learn from their mistakes at previous tournaments sooner rather than later.

South Korea are one of three teams in the group, along with Belgium and Russia, to have progressed to the semi-finals in the past, with Guus Hiddink having led them to the last four on home soil in 2002.

However, they head to Brazil with one of the youngest and most inexperienced squads which may find life difficult to edge out the wily Russians and technically-gifted Belgians.

As for Algeria, they will be desperate to find the net after failing to score a single goal in their three group games at South Africa 2010, which included a 0–0 stalemate against an England side managed by current Russia coach Fabio Capello.

The emergence of young midfielder Nabil Bentaleb has increased the excitement surrounding this improved side, but making it through the group stages may be a step too far even if they are capable of getting some surprise results.

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