2014 WORLD CUP SOCCER
Kickoff: Sunday, 12:00 p.m. EDT
Estadio Do Maracana – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Belgium -114, Russia +310, Tie +270
Over/Under: 2.5 Goals (Over Even, Under -129)
Belgium and Russia both look to get a leg up in Group H play when the clubs meet Sunday afternoon in Rio.
Both countries actually trailed 1-0 in their World Cup openers, but Belgium was able to score a pair of goals late in a 2-1 win over Algeria. Meanwhile, Russia was able to tally an equalizer late in its match to pick up a vital one point against South Korea in a 1-1 tie. Although Belgium is a substantial favorite, it could be missing two key players for Sunday's match. Team captain and defender Vincent Kompany is questionable with a groin ailment, while the prognosis is more promising for midfielder Eden Hazard who suffered a bruised toe in the victory over Algeria.
Belgium may have been held without a goal for 69 minutes against Algeria, but it wasn't for a lack of chances. The club attempted 16 total shots to just three for their opponents, as the Belgians put 10 of their shots on goal while Algeria's only shot on goal was its penalty-kick tally. Belgium also dominated possession 65% to 35%, and produced seven corner kicks to just two for Algeria. Although the match was very physical with 38 fouls (20 by Belgium), the Belgians picked up only one yellow card when Jan Vertonghen grabbed an opponent by the arm in the box, resulting in that penalty kick. But Belgium got a huge boost from its bench, as both goal-scorers were second-half substitutes. Midfielder Marouane Fellaini opened the scoring with a gorgeous header off a perfect cross from Kevin De Bruyne. Ten minutes later, Dries Mertens scored the game-winner off a beautiful pass from Eden Hazard. Belgium is bigger and stronger than its Sunday opponent, but Russia has great quickness and is the more desperate team.
Russia showed great mettle in forging a tie versus South Korea, whose only goal came when Russia goalie Igor Akinfeev let a seemingly harmless shot go right through his hands at the 68th minute. But just six minutes later, Alexander Kerzhakov was able to find the back of the net off when he was inside the goalie box after a failed clearing attempt by South Korea hit Russia's Andrey Eshchenko in the chest and landed right on Kerzhakov's foot for an easy goal. That was one of 16 total shots for Russia, which put 10 of those attempts on goal. South Korea managed only 10 total shots and six on goal. Russia did lose time of possession by a small 52% to 48% margin, but corner kicks were an even 4-4. Russia committed 15 fouls in the match, with its lone yellow card issued to Oleg Shatov.