World Cup Special #8: GROUP H

by Ray_North on June 11, 2014

images-10Group H, the last group that I’ll feature in my little meander around the runners and riders for this year’s world cup, and Group H is another cracker – Russia, Belgium, South Korea and Algeria. I’ve dubbed it the Group of Mystery, because, well, it could be a group that is mysterious!

The Russians always qualify and always look quite strong, but this year, we know very little about the actual players in the squad; the Belgiums are a very young team that is brimming with promise and stacked full of lads who have played well in the Premier League; the South Koreans are never mugs; whilst the Algerians also have a good record in qualifying, though have often struggled at the tournament proper.

Let’s start with Algeria. They did well to qualify unbeaten from an African Group including the more fancied Mali. And they did so because they were technical very good, they scored lots of goals and they work incredibly hard. The gaffer is the Yugoslav Halilhodzic, who will set them up so that they are very difficult to beat – and in the captain Bougherra, once of Crewe and Sheffield Wednesday, the keeper M’Bholi, and schemer Lacen, they have players who have played in a World Cup and upset the odds when they drew with England in Bloemfontein. Up front they will hope that Silimani will get them some goals and that Sofiane Fenghali of Valencia, who has a lot of pace, can trouble a few teams. images-8

Player to watch Yacine Brahimi was hailed as the new Zidane in France, right up until the moment when he turned his back on the country of his birth and opted to play for the country of his fathers. Look out for Bentaleb of Spurs as well.

South Korea also have a good world cup record – and reached the semi-final in 2002. There recent results have been poor however, losing to Iran, Ghana, Mexico and Greece. As ever with Korea the fear is that they won’t be physically strong enough to overcome the European teams or North African teams, and I have a feeling that this is not a good group for them.

The manager is Hong Yeung Bo, who has played in four world cups and is a genuine legend in Korea. He will look to the players based in Europe to add some steel and will be well served by the likes of Suk-Young of QPR, Kim Bo Young of Cardiff and the excellent Ki who looked excellent when he was on loan at Sunderland last year. Up front they will look to Park, who is nominally on Arsenal’s books but has never actually played for the Gunners and Leen Keun-Ho who is one of their home based players.

Unknown-3The one to watch though is Son Heun-Min who is strong quick, two footed and scores lots of goals for his club Borussia Dortmund.

Russia take a squad that is made up entirely of Russian based players – which is unique in this world cup (England have everyone but Fraser Forster based at home), but does make them a bit of a mystery. We know that their manager Fabio Capello will set them up in a way that won’t win many fans, but won’t ship many goals either. Their keeper Akinfeev is outstanding and the spine of Ignashevich at centre half, Skipper Denisov in midfield and Kerzhakov up front are experienced and effective. I have no doubt that the Russians will qualify through the group, but I fear that they may lack the creativity to get much further than that.

images-9One to watch – Alan Dzagoev that most wonderful of things a goal scoring midfielder.

Belgium are rammed full of goalscoring midfielders and players we know. On paper their team is scarily good – Courtois is supposedly the best young keeper in the business, Kompany has just has another outstanding season in the heart of the Man City defence, whilst Hazard, Mirrallas, Lukaku and Dembele are all match winners on their day.

This is a very special team and, if they can gel and gain a bit of confidence, I can see them going very far and giving us all an awful lot of pleasure on the way.
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As for a player to watch, I’m going to keep an eye on Adnan Januzaj of Manchester United, he did well at times in a struggling United side last season, let’s see how he gets on amongst this hugely talented set of players.

My prediction:

1. Belgium
2. Russia
3. South Korea
4. Algeria

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