Portugal a lay all day

  • By: Andy Schooler and Dave Tickner
  • Last Updated: June 22 2014, 23:24 BST

We're opposing Portugal in Sunday's World Cup action and siding with Belgium's Kevin De Bruyne.

Cristiano Ronaldo: Clearly not fully fit for Portugal
Cristiano Ronaldo: Clearly not fully fit for Portugal

Portugal will bid to bounce back from their horror show in their opening game against Germany, while Belgium take on Russia.

The day's other game sees Algeria up against South Korea.

Check out our match-by-match verdicts, brought to you by Andy Schooler and Dave Tickner.

Belgium v Russia (Group H, Rio de Janiero, 1700 BST)

A crucial encounter in Group H between the two European sides, and both will be looking for an improvement on their opening efforts.

Belgium, much fancied to go well in Brazil, trailed Algeria until Marc Wilmots' triple change altered the course of the game. Substitutes Marouane Fellaini and Dries Mertens scored to seal a 2-1 win and both may now earn starting berths in place of disappointing Spurs pair Nacer Chadli and Mousa Dembele.

Russia, meanwhile, started slowly against South Korea and conceded through a goalkeeping howler before battling back for a draw.

Victory for Belgium here would secure a last-16 spot and they will have plenty of backers at a shade under even money. Certainly they finished that opening game with a better-looking side than that which began it.

The same, to an extent, was true of Russia but it's Belgium who look to have more scope to kick on. Potential Belgium backers should note, though, that Vincent Kompany is rated doubtful due to a groin strain.

The best bet on the game, though, may come in the anytime goalscorer market where Kevin de Bruyne - who assisted Fellaini's equaliser - is a 10/3 chance.

The former Chelsea midfielder netted in four of 10 qualifiers for Belgium and should get chances to get off the mark in the finals here.

Verdict: Belgium 2 Russia 0 (DT)

Opta facts:

Romelu Lukaku scored a brace in the sides' last encounter, a 2-0 friendly win for Belgium in Voronezh in November 2010.

Lukaku failed to register a single touch in the opposition area in his 58-minute appearance against Algeria.

Thibaut Courtois is yet to lose a match with the Belgium national team (P18 W12 D6).

The last eight goals that Russia have scored in World Cup finals matches have come after half-time.

South Korea v Algeria (Group H, Porto Alegre, 2000 BST)

After what unfolded in the opening round of group games, I'm surprised to see these two so far apart in the match betting.

The Koreans, unimpressive in a 1-1 draw against Russia, are 11/8 shots with Algeria out at 12/5 having pushed Belgium, the expected group winners, hard before going down 2-1.

Algeria were organised well defensively, although admittedly the Belgians did have more joy as the match wore on. However, that was hardly surprising given the opponents included creative types like Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne.

I simply can't see Korea offering as much going forward as Belgium did. They were pretty toothless against the Russians and only scored courtesy of an horrendous goalkeeping error.

The fact that Arsenal discard Chu-Young Park is rated their most likely scorer speaks volumes, while a look at their results coming into the tournament also highlights their goals problem.

They were kept out by Ghana, Tunisia, USA and Mexico (losing each time), so they have now scored just three goals in their last six outings - with one of those being entirely down to a goalkeeping blunder.

Worryingly for Korea, their defence also looked vulnerable when Russia were finally woken from their malaise by that bizarre goal.

While hardly looking full of goals themselves, it is worth noting that they managed to bag five in two warm-up games against Romania (2-1) and Armenia (3-1).

Islam Slimani and Hilal El Arbi Soudani, the forwards who propelled them into the finals, will be the men they look to in search of goals and I feel they can grab one against a overrated Korean side.

The 12/5 about them notching three points - a result they really need if they are to have a strong chance of making the last 16 - simply looks too big to me and should be backed.

The 1-0 scoreline, offered at 17/2, is also worthy of consideration for those looking for a bigger price.

Verdict: South Korea 0 Algeria 1 (AS)

Opta facts:

Sofiane Feghouli's goal from the penalty spot against Belgium was the only shot that Algeria managed to hit on target in their opening game.

South Korea have won just one of their last six World Cup group stage games (W1 D3 L2).

Algeria have scored just two goals in their last 11 hours and 25 minutes of World Cup football.

USA v Portugal (Group G, Manaus, 2300 BST)

It has been a miserable start to the World Cup for Portugal, a side I admittedly fancied as one of the outsiders to go well.

Conceding an early goal to Germany was followed by the roof caving in. Pepe was sent off for an inexplicable head-butt and they ended up losing 4-0, a result which means they will almost certainly need to win their remaining two games to progress to the last 16.

To add injury to insult, left-back Fabio Coentrao has been ruled out of the rest of the tournament with a groin problem, while Cristiano Ronaldo's knee clearly still isn't right with the Real Madrid having missed training sessions since that demoralising defeat.

Were it not for fellow Iberians Spain having performed so poorly, there would be real focus on Portugal's woeful opening.

Instead I'd suggest the bookies have dismissed that result too quickly. Portugal remain odds-on for victory against the USA, who won their opening match against Ghana to give themselves real hope of progressing from what is one of the hardest groups.

I just can't agree with that pricing given the problems in the Portuguese camp. Half of their first-choice defence will be missing for this game and their star attacker will, at best, play when not fully fit.

Portugal offered little against Germany but of course they will hope that can be resolved by keeping 11 men on the field.

I'm not convinced the answer to their problems will be that simple though, for this USA side showed they are no pushovers against Ghana, a game they weren't expected to win either, and certainly impressed more than Portugal did in their opener. Not that that was difficult.

Clint Dempsey again showed how comfortable he is playing this level, while defensively they restricted Ghana to a limited number of chances.

Jurgen Klinsmann's men did tire in that game - a concern given this one is taking place in hot and humid Manaus - but by the same token Portugal may well have some tired legs come the end of this one after chasing for the ball for long periods against the Germans.

Basically, I'm looking for a way to get with the outsiders here and the way I'm going to do so is in the double-chance market.

With events having conspired against them, Portugal look like a side in a bit of a state right now and the US have enough in their locker to take advantage.

The brave could side with a shock win at around the 9/2 mark but for me putting the draw also on your side and still getting odds-against seems more than fair.

Verdict: USA 1 Portugal 1 (AS)

Opta facts:

Portugal have only won one of their last eight games at the World Cup (7-0 v North Korea in 2010), drawing three and losing four.

Cristiano Ronaldo has scored two goals from a total of 55 shots at the World Cup.

The USA have only kept two clean sheets in their last 24 games at the World Cup but have scored in their last seven.

There were two own goals during the USA's 3-2 win against Portugal at the 2002 World Cup - it had never happened before or since in the competition.

  • Posted at 1640 BST on 21/06/2014.