Belgium and Algeria’s long wait to get their World Cup campaigns underway is almost over, with many expecting the Belgians to have a strong tournament in Brazil. In anticipation, we’ve pitted Belgium football expert John Chapman against Algerian guru Yanis Boukerrou.
John Chapman on Belgium: Marc Wilmots is not revealing his team for Algeria but three positions are up for grabs. Veteran Daniel Van Buyten is expected to edge out Thomas Vermaelen as Vincent Kompany’s partner in central defence. In midfield, Moussa Dembélé is a slight favourite over Marouane Fellaini to play between Axel Witsel and Kevin De Bruyne, while it looks like being Kevin Mirallas on the right wing with Wilmots preferring Dries Mertens as an impact substitute.
Yanis Boukerrou on Algeria: It has been increasingly difficult to deduce the exact line-up as the Algerian boss likes to make use of his full squad. Over the last two friendlies Algeria managed to give minutes to 22 of the 23 members of the squad. However the following players seem to have the highest probability to start. Feghouli, Ghoulam, Bougherra, Taider, Medjani and Bentaleb. Regardless of players, the formation will be 4-3-3.
John Chapman on Belgium: The last game was a friendly in Brussels against a weak Tunisian ‘B’ side and is remembered mostly for the hailstorm that led to a 40 minute break in proceedings. The team didn’t perform and Eden Hazard later admitted he’s held back rather than risk injury. Teenage striker Divock Origi started the game and looked extremely useful. Nacer Chadli, Dries Mertens and Adnan Januzaj all came on as substitutes and livened up proceedings. Belgium are unbeaten in their last four friendlies, winning three of them. In reality, however, friendly form means very little.
Yanis Boukerrou on Algeria: Algeria’s last friendly resulted in a 2-1 win for the North Africans against Romania. This time around Algeria played a much more defensive scheme than usual. However, that did not stop Algeria from coming up with 16 shots despite only having 33% possession. As far as overall form is concerned, Algeria have also lost only one game in their last 13. In addition, the last time Algeria was held scoreless was in January 26, 2013 against Togo in the African cup of Nations. In 2014, Algeria has scored 7 goals and conceded only 2 in three games, with three wins during that period.
WHAT THE MANAGERS SAY:
Marc Wilmots on Belgium: “The preparation has been perfect and everyone is keen to play. But remember that this is the first match and the result will not be decisive.”
Vahid Halilhodžić on Algeria: “This is a very complicated game for us. But we will do everything to make life difficult for Belgium”
John Chapman on Belgium: Kevin de Bruyne was the key player for Belgium in the qualifying rounds, scoring four goals and notching four assists. His five months spent watching Chelsea meant that he lost form and it was wasn’t until his move to Wolfsburg in January that he started to perform again. Although playing on the wing in the qualifiers, he’s recently been starting as a central playmaker – a position in which he plays as to the manner born.
Yanis Boukerrou on Algeria: Sofiane Feghouli will be the key man for Algeria. He will not only hold the heavy burden of providing offensive potency, but his resolute work ethic will be called upon to help defend the right side. Coming off an outstanding season he will need to bring the same tenacity he had at the Nou Camp where he became the first player this season to notch two assists against the Catalonian giants, Barcelona.
John Chapman on Belgium: Daniel Van Buyten has scored more international goals than anyone else in the Belgian squad. He’s likely to start and the tall centre back will be up in Algeria’s area for the set pieces. Take Van Buyten to get on the scoresheet at 6.40.
Yanis Boukerrou on Algeria: With both teams boasting impressive attacking options neither side will be content with staying back, betting that both teams will score at 1.95 wouldn’t be a bad bet at all.
John Chapman: Belgium 2-1 Algeria at 9.00
Yanis Boukerrou: Belgium 1-1 Algeria at 8.50