The four teams who have yet to play in Brazil take the pitch on Tuesday. There’s also the second match of the tournament for host country Brazil as they play Mexico. I find it a little odd that Brazil and Mexico will have played two games before Russia and South Korea play their first but that’s how the scheduling worked.
Match: Belgium vs. Algeria in Belo Horizonte
Results in “similar” pre-World Cup friendlies: Belgium played Tunisia to prepare for the Algeria match and won 1-0 on a late goal in Brussels. Algeria defeated Armenia 3-1 and 2-1 Romania in the last couple weeks. They played two European teams but nowhere near the skill level on Belgium.
What to watch for: Belgium has been one of the most talked about teams this tournament. They have a great amount of talent at each position but no one is sure how good they are because they don’t have major tournament experience. Belgium starts four natural center backs including EPL players Vincent Kompany, Thomas Vermaelen and Jan Vertonghen. Eden Hazard, Marouane Fellaini, Mousa Dembele, Romelu Lukaku are notable midfielders and attackers that ply their trade in England. Coach Marc Wilmots has several lineup decisions to make and it will be interesting to see his team selection. Algeria made a statement in 2010 in a group with the United States, England and Slovenia. They failed to score but only conceded twice and were a tough team to beat. Algeria has a young team and most of their players were born in France.
Players to watch: An injury to striker Christian Benteke opened the door for the 21-year-old Lukaku. He is a big striker that will get his opportunities to score. Midfielder Hassan Yebda is one of the the experienced players for Algeria and is a key defensive midfielder.
Prediction: Belgium 2 (Hazard, Mertens), Algeria 0
Match: Brazil vs. Mexico in Fortaleza
Results in “similar” pre-World Cup friendlies: Mexico defeated Ecuador 3-1 on May 31 in Arlington, Texas. Brazil “prepared” for Mexico by playing Panama and defeating the CONCACAF side 4-0 on June 3.
What to watch for: Brazil started the tournament slowly against Croatia but still earned three points. A long-distance goal from Neymar erased a first half own goal by Marcelo. Brazil took the lead through a controversial penalty call. Mexico were very impressive against Cameroon and would’ve won by more than one goal if they weren’t on the wrong side of questionable offsides calls. The big news before this game is the questionable playing status of Hulk, who picked up an injury in training. I originally had Brazil winning this game before the tournament but I think this game will end with a different result.
Players to watch: Dani Alves can be an important player for Brazil because of his ability to cross the ball. The right back pushed up many times against Croatia. Giovani dos Santos put two balls in the back of the net against Cameroon that were wrongly ruled offsides. Despite not officially scoring, dos Santos is Mexico’s most dangerous player going forward.
Prediction: Brazil 2 (Fred, Neymar), Mexico 2 (Peralta, Guardado)
Match: Russia vs. South Korea in Cuiaba
Results in “similar” pre-World Cup friendlies: Russia didn’t play an Asian team in 2014. They played South Korea in November before the draw was announced and won 2-1 in Dubai. South Korea defeated Greece 2-0 o March 5. They lost to Tunisia and Ghana in the recent friendlies.
What to watch for: Russia failed to make the 2010 World Cup and inexcusably didn’t reach the quarterfinals of Euro 2012 after winning their first group match 4-1. This Russia team has a different makeup to it under coach Fabio Capello. They are a strong defensive team with the Italian manager, who coached England at the 2010 Word Cup. Russia were dealt a huge blow when captain Roman Shirokov was ruled out of the tournament with an injury. South Korea has a young team that relies on counterattacking. They have many players who are on European clubs including five in Germany.
Players to watch: Striker Alexander Kerzhakov will be counted on to score for Russia who don’t have many scoring options without Shirokov. Son Heung-min is a 21-year-old striker that has a bright future ahead for South Korea.
Prediction: Russia 1 (Kerzhakov), South Korea 0