Belgium vs. Russia: Date, Time, Live Stream, TV Info and 2014 World Cup Preview

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Belgium vs. Russia: Date, Time, Live Stream, TV Info and 2014 World Cup Preview
Andrew Medichini/Associated Press

Coming into this summer's World Cup, Belgium and Russia were looked upon as the two teams that would contest most fiercely for Group H's top spot, and the pair meet on Sunday with different prospects following their tournament openers.

Marc Wilmots' men left it late to stage a dramatic 2-1 comeback victory over Algeria last week, whereas Fabio Capello will have been disappointed with the 1-1 draw his team salvaged from their clash with South Korea.

That being said, a talented Russia roster has the capacity to upset their pool's current leaders in what could very well be the fixture that dictates the course of their World Cup campaign.

 

Date: Sunday, June 22

Time: 5 p.m. BST/12 p.m. ET

Live Stream: BBC Sport website (UK), ABC Live (U.S., subscription required)

TV Info: BBC One (UK), ABC (U.S., subscription required)

 

Key Players to Watch

Belgium: Dries Mertens

Hassan Ammar/Associated Press

After Marouane Fellaini's lofted header provided the equaliser to Sofiane Feghouli's opener in the Algeria match, it was substitute Dries Mertens who provided the finishing touches for Belgium's turnaround victory.

Wilmots has an abundance of creative talent in his squad, and beIN Sport's Matteo Bonetti feels that the Napoli attacker should be in line for more action in the starting XI:

WhoScored.com, meanwhile, show just what fine form Mertens has been in of late, further backing up his case as to why he should be involved from the first minute against Russia:

The winger's injection of direction toward the Algerian goal was pivotal for Belgium's first three points of the tournament, and if Yuri Zhirkov is to again play in a more advanced midfield role for Capello, Russia's left flank could be an area prone to exposure.

 

Russia: Igor Akinfeev

Lee Jin-Man/Associated Press

South Korea came so close to claiming all three points from their fixture against Russia, capitalising on a horrific lapse in judgement from opposition goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev.

As James Tyler of ESPN hints, the stopper's blunder in handing South Korea their opener was on par with the sometimes calamitous form shown by Spain's Iker Casillas at this World Cup:

CSKA Moscow's No. 1 is a figure boasting huge experience in the national team's ranks, but it will be interesting to see if he's had the time to collect himself ahead of Russia's second run-out or if more nervy moments await.

 

Key Battle

Thomas Vermaelen vs. Aleksandr Kerzhakov

Wilmots has given away little on the fitness of captain Vincent Kompany in the buildup to Sunday's match, quoted by the Associated Press in saying that he "will take no risk whatsoever with Vincent."

Should the Manchester City man miss out, it's possible that Thomas Vermaelen could be slotted in as a direct replacement, although the depth of centre-back talent in Belgium's squad gives Wilmots a huge array of options.

Thanassis Stavrakis/Associated Press

Aleksandr Kerzhakov is another who didn't start in the first round of the group stage, but it was the substitute's equaliser against South Korea that at least gives Russia some hope, meaning Capello could favour him above Aleksandr Kokorin this time around.

Kokorin is a hugely promising asset for the Russians, but Kerzhakov has the benefit of more experience in major international competition, and should he start, he'll be striving to take advantage of Kompany's absence to the best of his ability.

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