Russia (0-0-1) vs. Belgium (1-0-0), Noon (ET)
06/22/2014 9:10 AM
06/22/2014 9:13 AM
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (SportsNetwork.com) - Two Group H sides will attempt to bolster their chances of playing in the knockout round when Russia clashes with Belgium at the Maracana on Sunday.
Both teams have shown they have no problem playing from behind.
The Belgians are coming off a comeback victory, avoiding a crushing defeat by Algeria in the opening match. After surrendering a 25th minute penalty kick, which was converted by Sofiane Feghouli, the Red Devils got clutch second-half goals from substitutes Marouane Fellaini and Dries Mertens to seal the win.
"The substitutions I made injected a bit of pace, which changed the game after the break," Belgium head coach Marc Wilmots said after the game. "The players seemed like beaten men in the dressing room, but I told them that I was sure that we would score eventually."
Russia, too, found itself behind in the 68th minute of its opener against Japan when Russian goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev mishandled Lee Keun-Ho's long- distance strike. Again, it was a substitute, Aleksandr Kerzhakov, who made the difference, leveling the score in the 74th minute. The Russians held on for the draw and salvaged a crucial point.
"We played a solid match and I'm satisfied with our performance.... Even so, I'm a little disappointed because we could have won the game," said Russia boss Fabio Capello.
Belgium is a rejuvenated, youthful side, which hinges on the athleticism and versatility of players like midfielder Eden Hazard and striker Romelu Lukaku, ages 22 and 20, respectively. The Red Devils have been considered by many to be a dark horse to make a good run in the knockout stage.
Russia will hope to make it out of the group stage for the first time ever, with veterans like Kerzhakov, along with defenders Sergei Ignashevich and Vasili Berezutski, tasked with leading a squad rather inexperienced on the international level.
For Russia, a win would put them atop the group. The team will certainly hope for another draw, at the very least, to hope to play in the knockout round.
A Belgian victory would all but send Wilmots' side to the round of 16, where the team will be eager to challenge the rest of the field.
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