FIFA WORLD CUP 2014: Group H Preview – Tola Ogunlewe

BELGIUM.

images (1)Perhaps the team with the most potential in the World Cup, Belgium qualified unbeaten with a national record of seven consecutive wins. Having qualified for six World Cup tournaments in succession between 1982 and 2002 and reaching the knockout phase five times, this is perhaps Belgium’s most talented squad in decades. They are currently ranked 11th in the world.

This is Belgium’s golden generation with stars including Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku, Axel Witsel, Thibaut Courtois and Vicent Kompany to mention a few. Hazard has to be the star of the show with a string of impressive performances for Chelsea all season earning the award of PFA Young Player of the Year Award in England and being touted as heir apparent to Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. Performances from Kompany at the back would also be crucial to Belgium’s progress as the defender captained Manchester City to Barclays Premier League glory last season.

Belgium coach Marc Wilmot, a former captain of the national team took over in June 2012 and has guided his side from 54th in the world rankings to an impressive 5th. Having been assistant manager for three years before taking over as manager, he knows this Belgium team in and out and would relish the challenge of living up to the hype of his team. Should all his stars perform, it isn’t farfetched to see Belgium going deep in the tournament.

This is Belgium’s final 23-man squad for the World Cup.

Goalkeepers:Thibaut Courtois (Atletico Madrid, on loan from Chelsea), Simon Mignolet (Liverpool), Sammy Bossut (Zulte Waregem).

Defenders: Toby Alderweireld (Atletico Madrid), Laurent Ciman (Standard Liege), Nicolas Lombaerts (Zenit St Petersburg), Vincent Kompany (Manchester City), Daniel Van Buyten (Bayern Munich), Anthony Vanden Borre (Anderlecht), Thomas Vermaelen (Arsenal), Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham).

Midfielders: Nacer Chadli, Mousa Dembele (both Tottenham), Steven Defour (Porto), Kevin De Bruyne (Wolfsburg), Marouane Fellaini, Adnan Januzaj (both Manchester United), Eden Hazard (Chelsea), Kevin Mirallas (Everton), Divock Origi (Lille), Axel Witsel (Zenit St Petersburg).

Forwards: Romelu Lukaku (Everton, on loan from Chelsea), Dries Mertens (Napoli).

ALGERIA.

images (2)The Desert foxes of Algeria are one of Africa’s representatives at the World Cup and the only Arab nation in the finals. They qualified beating Burkina Faso over two legs in the play-off round of the African qualifiers. As the first African nation to win two matches in the same World Cup tournament in 1982, Algeria have not progressed out of the group stage at their two other appearances in 1986 and 2010. They are currently ranked 22nd in the world.

Algeria boasts an array of stars at this tournament including Sofiane Feghouli of Valencia who turned down the chance to play for France at an early age. His performances would be critical to the Algeria’s chances in this group, a group in which they are the dark horses behind Russia and Belgium. Nabil Bentaleb of Tottenham Hotspur is another player to look out for. He broke into the Spurs first team this season and is being touted as a player with a bright future in the game. What better way to announce your appearance than on the grandest stage of them all.

Coach Vahid Halilhodzic formerly coach of the Ivory Coast has brought his discipline to the squad and many in the game are touting his side to be one of the dark horses in the tournament.

This is Algeria’s final 23 man squad for the World Cup.

Goalkeepers: Rais Mbolhi (CSKA Sofia), Cedric Si Mohamed (CS Constantine), Mohamed Lamine Zemmamouche (USM Alger).

Defenders: Essaid Belkalem (Watford, on loan from Granada), Madjid Bougherra (Lekhwya Club), Liassine Cadamuro (Mallorca), Faouzi Ghoualm (Napoli), Rafik Halliche (Academica Coimbra), Aissa Mandi (Stade Reims), Carl Medjani (Valenciennes), Djamel Mesbah (Livorno), Mehdi Mostefa (AC Ajaccio).

Midfielders: Nabil Bentaleb (Tottenham), Yasine Brahimi (Granada), Medhi Lacen (Getafe), Saphir Taider (Inter Milan), Hassan Yebda (Udinese).

Forwards: Abdelmoumene Djabou (Club Africain), Sofiane Feghouli (Valencia), Nabil Ghilas (Porto), Riyad Mahrez (Leicester City), Islam Slimani (Sporting Lisbon, Portugal), Hilal Soudani (Dinamo Zagreb).

RUSSIA.

download (1)Russia qualified top of group F edging out Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal in the process. They have been at the World Cup finals on two separate occasions since becoming an independent nation but failed to qualify from the group stage both times. Russia is currently ranked 19th in the world.

Russia’s strength is in their defence, defence heading by four CSKA Moscow players who have been an integral part of the Russian team in recent times. Goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev and defender Sergei Ignashevich would be crucial at the back but perhaps it is in midfield their strengths lie. Midfielder Alan Dzagoev also of CSKA Moscow is the player to watch, gifted and technically sound he is the engine room of the Russian team and the man who creates the chances and makes the team tick. An impressive performance from him at the tournament might well see him move to a bigger club over the closed season.

Manager Fabio Capello is a man with vast experience having previously managed power houses such as England on the international scene and the likes of Juventus and Real Madrid at club level. Under him Russia have steadily continued their rise in World football and would look to improve on performances at 2008 European Championships.

Russia’s final 23 man squad for the World Cup is;

Goalkeepers: Igor Akinfeev (CSKA Moscow), Yury Lodygin (Zenit St Petersburg), Sergey Ryzhikov (Rubin Kazan).

Defenders: Vasili Berezutskiy (CSKA Moscow), Vladimir Granat (Dynamo Moscow), Andrey Eshchenko (Anzhi Makhachkala), Sergey Ignashevich (CSKA Moscow), Alexey Kozlov (Dynamo Moscow), Dmitry Kombarov (Spartak Moscow), Andrey Semenov (Terek Grozny), Georgi Schennikov (CSKA Moscow).

Midfielders: Denis Glushakov (Spartak Moscow), Igor Denisov (Dynamo Moscow), Alan Dzagoev (CSKA Moscow), Yury Zhirkov (Dynamo Moscow), Alexey Ionov (Dynamo Moscow), Pavel Mogilevets (Rubin Kazan), Alexander Samedov (Lokomotiv Moscow), Victor Faizulin (Zenit St Petersburg), Oleg Shatov (Zenit St Petersburg).

Forwards: Maxim Kanunnikov (Amkar Perm), Alexander Kerzhakov (Zenit St Petersburg), Alexander Kokorin (Dynamo Moscow).

SOUTH KOREA.

downloadSouth Korea narrowly qualified for the World Cup having finished second to Iran and edging out Uzbekistan on goal difference in Group A of the Asian qualifiers. Having hosted the competition in 2002 with Japan, they shocked the World by knocking out Italy and finished fourth. It was their best ever performance at the finals and one they would likely not forget in a hurry.

Key players for the team include 21 year old Son Heung Min and 24 year old Kim Young-Gwon whose performances in midfield and defence respectively would set the Koreans in motion. Son Heung Min is Bayern Leverkusen’s most expensive player and he dazzled the Bundesliga last season. He would be hoping for a similar performance in Brazil.

Manager Hong Myung-Bo would well be remembered for his performances at 2002 World Cup which saw the red army finish fourth on home soil. He was the national replacement for the job as they search for leadership qualities in their new manger. He would look to use his personal experience to push his team forward and lead them to an unlikely qualification for the knock-out round.

This is South Korea’s final 23 man squad for the World Cup.

Goalkeepers: Jung Sung-ryeong (Suwon Bluewings), Kim Seung-gyu (Ulsan Horang-i), Lee Bum-young (Busan I’Park)

Defenders: Yun Suk-young (QPR), Kim Young-kwon (Guangzhou Evergrande), Hwang Seok-ho (Sanfrecce Hiroshima), Hong Jeong-ho (Augsburg), Kwak Tae-hwi (Al Hilal), Lee Yong (Ulsan Horang-i), Kim Chang-soo (Kashiwa Reysol), Park Joo-ho (Mainz)

Midfielders: Ki Seung-yueng (Sunderland, on loan from Swansea), Ha Dae-sung (Beijing Guoan), Han Kook-young (Kashiwa Reysol), Park Jung-woo (Guangzhou R&F), Son Heung-min (Bayer Leverkusen), Kim Bo-kyung (Cardiff City), Lee Chung-yong (Bolton Wanderers), Ji Dong-won (Augsburg).

Forwards: Koo Ja-cheol (Mainz), Lee Keun-ho (Sangju Sangmu), Park Chu-young (Arsenal), Kim Shin-wook (Ulsan Horang-i).

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