Belgium's Path to World Cup Knockout Round Looks Clear Even Before Russia Match

By Steve Ungrey
Belgium World Cup
Ian Walton — Getty Images Sport

No one is ready to crown Belgium as the kings of Group H just yet, as it has to face Russia in a World Cup group stage game on Sunday.

Belgium, after all, looked lackluster in its 2-1 win over Algeria, but the reality is the team did just enough to win the game and gain an upper-hand in what looks like a lackluster bracket.

With a victory here, Belgium would have two wins, six points and a likely clear path as the Group H winner in the knockout round. This would give Belgium its first berth in the Round of 16 since 2002, when it finished 14th overall. Belgium hasn’t reached the quarterfinal round since 1986, the year it traveled all the way to the semifinals.

Belgium hopes Vincent Kompany can come out at 100 percent for this match. Kompany suffered a groin strain during Tuesday’s match, but the team is hopeful he can overcome the issue and make a strong showing for the Belgian squad.

Belgium also has some history on its side. The country hasn’t lost a soccer match to Russia since the days Mikhail Gorbachev ruled the country. The dissolution of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War came in 1991, so some of these Belgian players have never known what it is like to lose to Russia.

This is only the third time Russia has qualified for a World Cup berth. The previous two times, in 1994 and 2002, it did not make it out of the group stage.

Issues with goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev could come into play here. Akinfeev allowed a lackluster goal against the Korea Republic as the teams battled to a 1-1 tie, and that makes Russia’s chances against Belgium look even worse. If it can’t dominate against Korea, how is it supposed to beat Belgium?

Prediction: Belgium 3, Russia 0.

Despite Kompany’s injury, Belgium should have no problem earning another win and a decisive showing in Group H. Then again, this has been one of the more unpredictable World Cup tournaments in recent memory. It isn’t that unpredictable, though. Look for Belgium to prevail and secure a spot in the knockout round.

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