Belgium v Algeria – Lukaku To Fire Red Devils
Belgium v Algeria
Many expect big things from Belgium at this World Cup and an opening game against Algeria looks set to give them the perfect opportunity to get off to a good start.
Belgium are unbeaten in their last four games and have recovered well from successive defeats to Colombia and Japan following qualification. Marc Wilmots’ charges have won their last three games against Luxembourg, Sweden and Tunisia, with Dries Mertens scoring a last minute winner in their most recent outing to earn his side a 1-0 win over the North Africans. Qualification was a stroll for this talented side, as they finished nine points ahead of Croatia after going through the ten games dropping just four points and remaining unbeaten.
Romelu Lukaku has scored four times in his last three games for Belgium, including a hat-trick in their 5-1 thumping of Luxembourg and the opener against the Swedes.
Victorious in each of their three warm-up games, Algeria will be confident of upsetting the odds in a group few give them any chance of getting out of. Those wins did come against a trio of teams however – Slovenia, Armenia and Romania – who failed to reach the World Cup and they will face far more formidable opponents in the coming weeks. The Algerians came through a play-off with Burkina Faso on away goals as they suffered a 3-2 defeat in the away leg first before hanging on for a tense 1-0 win at home to earn their ticket to Brazil.
Dinamo Zagreb striker Hilal El Arbi Soudani has scored two in the past three for Algeria, including the winner against Romania in their most recent outing, and boasts an excellent international record of 11 goals from his 22 appearances.
With almost 50% of their squad plying their trade in England’s Premier League, it’s little surprise to see that that’s where the spine of this Belgium team will be. Vincent Kompany, Mousa Dembele and Lukaku offer plenty of strength and skill in central roles while Kevin Mirallas and the gifted Eden Hazard’s pace and dribbling ability will give any opposition plenty to think about.
Algeria’s side also features players who earn their keep thoroughout European football, with only two of their squad – both goalkeepers, playing in their own domestic league. 19-year-old Spurs midfielder Nabil Bentaleb has only recently made his international debut but could well be selected from the off by coach Vahid Halilhodzic. Former Rangers defender Madjid Bougherra is easily the most experienced player in their squad while Valencia attacker Sofiane Feghouli will attempt to unlock defences and drift between the lines to find space.
Head to Head
These sides have only met twice in their history, both inside a year of each other between 2002 and 2003. Their first meeting finished scoreless while Belgium ran out comfortable 3-1 winners in the second, with Emile Mpenza scoring twice.
It’s no surprise to see Belgium as heavy favourites in the match betting market at 1/2 in what is expected to be their easiest group game and this shouldn’t be a game to give too many problems to a team who have aspirations to go far in Brazil.
Lukaku had a fine season on loan at Everton from Chelsea and looks to be carrying his club form over to international football now, take the striker to score anytime at 8/11 or to fire a goal in an opening victory for the Belgians at 10/11.