Belgium haven’t made the light work of Group H that many had envisioned before the tournament began, with two less-than-convincing victories against Algeria and Russia, respectively.
That being said, two wins out of two has put them into the knockout stage, but their form must improve if they’re to make an impact in the winter of the tournament.
The timing couldn’t be better, then, for Belgium to take on South Korea in Sao Paulo, where they can look to build confidence ahead of the round of 16.
Venue: Arena de Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo
Date: Thursday, June 26
Time: 9 p.m. BST/4 p.m. ET
TV Info: ITV1/ESPN (U.S.)
Marc Wilmots Happy to Win Ugly
Any pundit can tell you that Belgium have been a letdown so far, but what’s disappointing about winning football matches?
Take England for example—they played better against Italy than they have in any match in over a decade, but what happened? Italy won 2-1.
Watching any domestic football season unfold will tell you that playing ugly and winning is the sign of champions, but the beautiful side always comes out.
Manager Wilmots will be hoping that the beauty arrives against Russia to secure their place in the round of 16, but for now, he’s happy to just play effectively—per FIFA.com:
“It's not about being beautiful—but about being effective. Belgium are through to the next round and that is what counts. We are tactically very disciplined and we needed to be patient."
Patient they were, with both of their game-winning goals coming later than the 80-minute mark, making skipper Vincent Kompany praise the courage of his young side via Twitter:
Kompany and Co. now have to put the icing on top of their Group H cake against the South Koreans, who were outplayed by Algeria on Sunday.
The African nation’s 4-2 victory was almost flattering on South Korea, having failed to make any sort of impact for the majority of the match—per OptaJoe:
However, Hong Myung-bo’s side are still in with a chance of qualifying if they manage to put a few goals past Belgium—so, yes, it’s a very slim chance.
Though they harbour some renowned talent in their ranks—the likes of Ki Sung-yueng and Park Chu-young—the way that Hong has them set up so far rather flattens their whole operation.
They’ll be hoping that a miracle happens in Sao Paulo, but unless the South Korean tactics change, then it’s incredibly unlikely, particularly against the force of Belgium.
Korea’s one saving grace is that the Belgians may be looking to rest some of their key players to keep them fresh for the knockout stage.
However, anyone who’s watched Belgium in the last two years can tell you that they have more than enough quality in their ranks to be able to afford to rest their big players and to romp to victory on Thursday with any line-up.
In spite of their narrow victories so far, Belgium have eased into the tournament as time has gone on. Finding a way to peak at the right time at a World Cup is invaluable, but the young Belgians may well crack it.
Though Wilmots’ men will face a tough test in the round of 16 against any one of Group G’s heavyweights, if their best form finally arrives in Brazil, then they could make light work of any opposition.
Prediction: South Korea 0-2 Belgium