Belgium vs. Russia: Tactical Preview of World Cup Group H Match

Sam TigheWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterJune 22, 2014

BELO HORIZONTE, BRAZIL - JUNE 17:  Eden Hazard of Belgium controls the ball during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group H match between Belgium and Algeria at Estadio Mineirao on June 17, 2014 in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.  (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
Paul Gilham/Getty Images

The first round of group-stage matches is complete at the FIFA World Cup 2014, and now we turn our attention to the second lot.

Belgium and Russia open the action in Group H.



For 60 minutes against Algeria, things were looking a little ominous for Belgium and coach Marc Wilmots.

Possible Belgium change: Vincent Kompany/Thomas Vermaelen.
Possible Belgium change: Vincent Kompany/Thomas Vermaelen.@stighefootball

A counter-attack from the Desert Foxes drew an error from Jan Vertonghen, and with Sofiane Feghouli converting the penalty to give his side the lead, Red Devil fans worldwide were groaning in their seats.

Pressure, expectancy and the "favourites" tag are not things that sit well with Belgian football, and Wilmots will need to be at his very best to ensure he guides a young group of players as far as he can.

Not helping their cause is the defensive mantra many adopt when facing them, and Algeria's low block will likely be replicated by Russia when they meet at the Maracana.



Russia were decidedly less spectacular than we'd hoped for, with Roman Shirokov's absence ringing true in midfield.

They lacked drive and direction, floating around and slowing the tempo to the point where the home crowd in Cuiaba booed for short stretches.

Possible Russia XI.
Possible Russia XI.@stighefootball

It wasn't until Alan Dzagoev was substituted on that the Sbornaya began to create chances and penetrate the penalty box. Before that, the bland strategy of hitting long balls to Aleksandr Kokorin got them absolutely nowhere.

They'll be under serious defensive pressure, so Igor Akinfeev best bring his sticker, more reliable goalkeeping gloves.


2 Tactical Clashes

1. Freeing Up Eden Hazard

Andrey Eshchenko is vulnerable at right-back for Russia, and with him going against Eden Hazard, Fabio Capello will be actively moving resources over to protect him.

Limited: Hazard received plenty of passes but fired very few into dangerous areas.
Limited: Hazard received plenty of passes but fired very few into dangerous

The Sbornaya fielded a defensive midfield duo of Denis Glushakov and Viktor Faizulin against South Korea with the proviso of controlling possession; this time they'll have an entirely different modus operandi, with the focus on locking up their own third.

Hazard was double- and triple-teamed by Algeria, and when Vertonghen refused to move forward and assist his team-mate, the Chelsea man's influence quickly waned.

What will Wilmots do to make him more impactful this time around?


2. Russian Approach

It's difficult to predict how Capello will attack this game, with Kokorin underwhelming in the opener and Aleksandr Kerzhakov dying for a start after saving his nation against South Korea.

Kerzhakov's clever runs in behind the defence would be exceptionally useful against a high line, but Kokorin is more durable and better suited over the top.

Dzagoev is probably the key to releasing the runs, operating out of the No. 10 role and moving the ball on quickly with pace. Who suits the pace of the game better?


Bleacher Report will do a tactical preview and review of every single 2014 FIFA World Cup game. Stay tuned to this link and check it every day for more.