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Belgium opens Group H action; Brazil faces Mexico on TSN Radio

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The Sports Network
6/16/2014 9:10:06 PM
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Belgium aims for strong start against Algeria - Noon et/9am pt (TSN 1050, TSN 1200, TEAM 1410)

Belo Horizonte, Brazil - Belgium makes its return to the World Cup for the first time in 12 years on Tuesday at the Estadio Mineirao as the club opens Group H play against underdogs Algeria.

The Desert Foxes took part in the 2010 World Cup and failed to advance past the group stage, and the African side figures to have a tough time reaching the last 16 this time around as well.

Belgium's last appearance on the big stage was the 2002 tournament when the team reached the second round before bowing out to eventual champions Brazil.

And the Red Devils will expect to reach at least the last 16 as the favorites in Group H this year.

Head coach Marc Wilmots was a member of the 2002 World Cup team, and he will be on the sidelines this time around.

Wilmots doesn't have an extensive coaching resume, but he brings with him a talented young side that could make some noise in Brazil.

Belgium has a number of quality attacking options led by 22-year-old Chelsea star Eden Hazard, while Everton winger Kevin Mirallas figures to play opposite Hazard and provide quality service to striker Romelu Lukaku, who was a teammate of Mirallas at Everton this past season while on loan from Chelsea.

That trio should provide plenty of scoring chances for Belgium, but how far this team goes could be determined by how well they hold up in defense.

Captain Vincent Kompany will serve as the anchor, and he will be joined by players like Jan Vertonghen, Thomas Vermaelen and Toby Alderweireld in front of goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, who is coming off a great season with Atletico Madrid.

All the ingredients are there for Belgium to make an impact in this tournament, and there is no reason for Wilmots to expect anything less than three points from this opening game.

Algeria finished last in Group C in 2010, claiming one point and failing to score a goal in three games.

The team will hope for a better showing this year with Sofiane Feghouli at the heart of things in midfield.

The Valencia man must provide service for Sporting Lisbon striker Islam Slimani, who is Algeria's biggest goal threat, while 19-year-old Nabil Bentaleb is another player to watch in midfield after making a strong debut this past season with Tottenham in the English Premier League.

Algeria is captained by veteran defender Madjid Bougherra, and he will have his hands full with the plethora of attacking options in the Belgium side.

If Algeria is able to take anything from this match, it will be a big surprise and will change the landscape in Group H.

Brazil aims to seize control of Group A against Mexico - 3pm et/Noon pt (TSN 1050, TSN 690, TSN 1260, TEAM 1410)

Fortaleza, Brazil - After a fairly straight-forward opening victory last Thursday, host nation Brazil will shoot for its second straight win in Group A play against Mexico at the Estadio Castelao.

Brazil got its World Cup campaign off to a flying start last week, easing to a 3-1 victory over Croatia at the Arena Corinthians in Sao Paulo despite a less- than-stellar overall performance.

The hosts fell behind early after a cross from the left flank by Ivica Olic that was mishandled by Nikica Jelavic, but the ball was directed home by Brazil defender Marcelo for the own goal.

Brazil remained patient despite the early hole and grabbed the equalizer in the 29th minute as Neymar ran onto a pass from Oscar following a giveaway in midfield and fired a low strike that trickled past Croatian goalkeeper Stipe Pletikosa.

The match then fully turned in the direction of Brazil when the hosts were handed a questionable penalty decision after Fred went down in the area under minimal contact from Croatian defender Dejan Lovren.

Neymar converted the ensuing spot kick to give Brazil the lead in the 71st minute.

Croatia pushed in search of a tying goal and came close on several occasions only to be denied by a few key saves from Julio Cesar.

But Brazil's day would not be ruined as Oscar wrapped up the affair in stoppage time, poking a home a shot from outside the box following a counterattack to hand the hosts the win by a flattering score line.

Neymar was thrilled with the result following the match.

"It was better than I thought," he said.. "I was hoping that we'd win, but to be able to debut in a World Cup with a brace is an unmeasurable joy."

Mexico is also looking for a second win in Group A after squeezing past Cameroon, 1-0, on Friday in Natal.

Miguel Herrera's side was hard done early in the match as two goals were disallowed, but they eventually found the only goal of the contest in the 61st minute.

Giovani Dos Santos, who had the early goals taken off the board, had a hand in creating the game's only tally when he split the defense and fired a low shot on goal that was stopped by Cameroon goalkeeper Charles Itandje, but Oribe Peralta arrived late to tuck home the rebound.

"Despite difficult circumstances, we managed to push forward and put on a nice display," Dos Santos said. "Playing at the World Cup is always a unique experience, and I'm grateful to the coach for the trust he placed in me. I feel good - I'm happy and motivated."

Russia squares off with Korea in Group H tilt - 6pm et/3pm pt (TSN 1050, TSN 1200, TEAM 1410)

Cuiaba, Brazil - Fabio Capello returns to the World Cup as manager of Russia, and his side will open Group H play against South Korea at the Arena Pantanal on Tuesday.

Capello crashed out of the 2010 World Cup as boss of England in the round of 16, which was a big disappointment for the Three Lions.

But the Italian is back on the big stage with Russia, a team that is making its first appearance at the World Cup since 2002.

South Korea, meanwhile, has become a fixture at the tournament, reaching the World Cup for the eighth successive time.

However, if Korea's qualifying campaign is any indication of where the team is at, they could be making a brief stay in Brazil.

South Korea endured a poor qualification cycle that saw the side lose twice to Iran as well as once to Lebanon. But now that Korea has come through it, the Taegeuk Warriors are hoping for a fresh start.

Hong Myung-Bo has since taken charge of the team and the former player will try to get the most out of a young side that is in a bit of a transition period.

Hong is the most-capped player in South Korea's history, and he was a member of the 2002 side that reached the semifinals of the World Cup, so he knows a thing or two about winning.

However, it is tough to see the Koreans having the same kind of success this year, although a favorable draw in Group H gives them a good chance to finish second.

The strength of this team is in the midfield with Sunderland's Ki Sung- Yueng and Cardiff City's Kim Bo-Kyung pulling the strings, and this match with Russia will go a long way toward determining who goes through to the next round.

Capello's side has plenty of experience, but the question in this match will be whether they have the legs to keep up with the youthful Koreans.

Veterans Sergei Ignashevich and Vasili Berezutski will hold things down in the back for Capello, while Alan Dzagoev controls the midfield.

Two players to watch for Russia up top are Aleksander Kokorin and Aleksandr Kerzhakov, who will need to play well for Russia to have a chance at reaching the knockout round.



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