Group H Preview – Fennec Foxes To Sneak Through
World Cup 2014
Algeria could be the surprise package in Group H, here’s why…
One of the most inexperienced groups – alongside Group C – at Brazil 2014 is made up of Belgium, South Korea, Russia and Algeria who have just a couple of World Cup semi-final appearances between them.
The Belgians have attracted the tag of dark horses, but as 18/1 fifth favourites to go all the way it’s debatable just how surprising winners they would actually be.
The love-in with this Belgium side has developed from the combination of an impressive qualification campaign where they won eight and drew two of their 10 fixtures and the plethora of Belgian players now playing at top European clubs.
It’s 12 years since Diables Rouges last qualified for a major tournament and they’ve done so via a series of well-organised performances – only once scoring more than two in a qualifying game and conceding just four times throughout the campaign. A strong, young and dynamic squad make them genuine contenders here, but a lack of experience could ultimately cost them in the latter stages this time around.
Russia impressively topped a qualifying group that also included Portugal and Israel to book their place in Brazil. With only five goals conceded in 10 matches Fabio Capello’s side also have a strong defensive unit and will be encouraged by the favourable draw.
However, the 2018 World Cup, which they host, could bet at the back of Capello’s mind and he may take the opportunity to blood some youngsters in Brazil this summer, with much of the old guard past their peaks.
South Korea made it four straight World Cup qualifications by finishing second in AFC Group A, behind Iran and only ahead of third-place Uzbekistan on goal difference; and by just one goal at that. The semi-final appearance on home soil in 2002 is now a distant memory and a last-16 berth must be the height of manager Hong Myung-bo’s ambitions.
Algeria complete Group H after they qualified for Brazil 2014 via a dramatic play-off win over Burkina Faso. Burkina Faso were set for a fairytale appearance in football’s showpiece event after a 3-2 win in the first leg but Madjid Bougherra’s goal in the second leg meant that Algeria would progress via the away goals rule.
The Fennec Foxes have moved rapidly up the FIFA rankings in recent years and could be a big player in this group.
Group H Winner
Belgium are 4/6 favourites to top the group, and rightly so. They should make it through to the last 16 with a minimum amount of fuss against the quality of sides that they have beating with aplomb for the past 18 months or so.
Group H Qualification
The second qualification spot may not be so straightforward to determine and I see no reason why Algeria should be as big as 11/2 and Russia as short as 2/5 in the To Qualify market.
Take that 11/2 on Algeria as one of the value bets of the World Cup group stages.