World Cup guide: Group H
Our final team-by-team guide to the World Cup features the sides in Group H, including the much-discussed Belgium.
- Related Content
You can find guides to all the other groups as well as all the rest of our previews and features here, including our outright and top goalscorer tips.
Outright odds (with Sky Bet): 11/2
To win group: 18/1
To win group: 8/11
To qualify: 1/6
Full squad: Thibaut Courtois (Chelsea), Simon Mignolet (Liverpool), Sammy Bossut (Zulte-Waregem); Toby Alderweireld (Atletico Madrid), Anthony Vanden Borre (Anderlecht), Daniel Van Buyten (Bayern Munich), Vincent Kompany (Manchester City), Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham Hotspur), Thomas Vermaelen (Arsenal), Nicolas Lombaerts (Zenit Saint Petersburg), Laurent Ciman (Standard Liege); Axel Witsel (Zenit Saint Petersburg), Marouane Fellaini (Manchester United), Steven Defour (Porto), Mousa Dembele, Nacer Chadli (both Tottenham Hotspur), Kevin De Bruyne (Wolfsburg); Romelu Lukaku (Chelsea), Divock Origi (Lille), Eden Hazard (Chelsea), Kevin Mirallas (Everton), Dries Mertens (Napoli), Adnan Januzaj (Manchester United)
Manager: Marc Wilmots
World Cup record: Fourth (1986), 2nd round/last 16 (1982, 1990, 1994, 2002)
How they qualified (most recent first): Belgium were one of seven European sides to book their ticket to Brazil wi
thout losing a single game and with a points margin of nine over second-placed Croatia, only Holland matched them in this regard. Drawn with Croatia, Wales, Serbia, Scotland and Macedonia, Marc Wilmots' side won eight out of their 10 games but it would have been nine had they kept focus against the Welsh in the last few minutes of their final game rather than preparing for a Brussels qualification party. As comfortable as their passage to Brazil was in terms of points, Belgium hardly ever blew their opponents away in terms of scorelines, which will be discussed later, but the winning habit is certainly something they possess.
v Wales (home) 1-1 (HT 0-0) De Bruyne 64
v Croatia (away) 2-1 (HT 2-0) Lukaku 15, 38
v Scotland (away) 2-0 (HT 1-0) Defour 38, Mirallas 88
v Serbia (home) 2-1 (HT 1-0) De Bruyne 13, Fellaini 60
v Macedonia (home) 1-0 (HT 0-0) Hazard 62
v Macedonia (away) 2-0 (HT 1-0) De Bruyne 26, Hazard 62
v Scotland (home) 2-0 (HT 0-0) Benteke 69, Kompany 71
v Serbia (away) 3-0 (HT 1-0) Benteke 34, De Bruyne 68, Mirallas 90+1
v Croatia (home) 1-1 (HT 1-1) Gillet 45+2
v Wales (away) 2-0 (HT 1-0) Kompany 41, Vertonghen 83
Goalscorers: Belgium tended to spread their 18 goals around but it was former Chelsea midfielder Kevin De Bruyne who netted the most with four. Romelu Lukaku bagged a brace in the World Cup qualification-clinching 2-1 victory at Croatia - but they were his only goals - while Christian Benteke, Kevin Mirallas and Vincent Kompany also weighed in with two each. However, Aston Villa striker Benteke will miss the finals due to injury, meaning Lukaku is now set for more game time.
Half-time/full-time: Belgium were leading four games at half-time during the group stages and went on to win all of them. Interestingly they were never behind in any game at the break although they needed a goal deep into first-half stoppage time from Guillaume Gillet in their 1-1 home draw with Croatia. Eight of their 18 goals came in the first half of games while they only conceded one goal before the interval.
Clean sheets: Considering Belgium only conceded four games in total and never more than one in any match, it's no surprise to learn they kept as many as six clean sheets during the qualifying stages.
Win to nil: Six of their eight wins were to nil although only once did they manage to score more than two goals in a game - the 3-0 victory over Serbia. Clearly their route to Brazil was built on a firm foundation at the back rather than blowing teams away up front.
Cards: Counting reds as two, Belgium's 10 World Cup qualification matches produced 34 cards. Of these, Belgium received 12 yellows and no reds.
Other competitive internationals: None during the qualification process or since.
Build-up (most recent first): Belgium have played five international friendlies since the 1-1 draw with Wales but they've only managed to win two of those - the recent 5-1 triumph over Luxembourg and impressive 2-0 victory in Sweden. They suffered defeats to Colombia and Japan before drawing with Ivory Coast - results which may somewhat cool the growing interest in Belgium from punters. Their final scheduled match before the tournament, against Tunisia in Brussels, was abandoned due to a hailstorm with the score goalless.
v Sweden (away) 2-0 (HT 1-0) Lukaku 34, Hazard 78
v Luxembourg (home) 5-1 (HT 2-1) Lukaku 3, 23, 54, Chadli 71, De Bruyne 90+1
v Ivory Coast (home) 2-2 (1-0) Fellaini 17, Nainggolan 51
v Japan (home) 2-3 (HT 1-1) Mirallas 15, Alderweireld 79
v Colombia (home) 0-2 (HT 0-0)
Team verdict: It's certainly a one-off that a European team which has failed to qualify for a major tournament since the 2002 World Cup can generally be regarded as fifth favourites to win football's greatest crown - but I guess that's what happens when a perfect storm of a 'golden generation' comes together at exactly the right time.
However, while the star names in their squad are plentiful and easy to pick out, very few of them have experience of a major international tournament at senior level and that's a factor which can't be ignored.
How players gel together - both in training and socially - during a month-long tournament is pivotal to their efforts on the pitch and there have been a number of examples in the past when fall-outs in camp can ruin everything. That's not to say there's any suggestion of disharmony within the Belgium squad - the excitement of this first-time experience may well improve camaraderie - but other countries' federations may be better drilled at organising their team's World Cup adventure on the back of previous campaigns and this can have knock-on effects on how the players prepare and ultimately perform.
Many would still expect the Belgians to progress to the next round although don't expect them to steamroller opposition considering they only scored 18 goals in their 10 qualifying games and have hardly looked that impressive during recent friendlies.
They will, of course, also be without injured striker Christian Benteke which can't be ignored as a key factor.
"I'm not interested in Belgium's best price of 18/1 to win the World Cup - you just can't rock up with a squad of players with no experience on such a stage and win it."
A run to the quarter-finals is the best they can hope for in my opinion but, as explained later in this analysis, a group-stage exit wouldn't exactly surprise me.
Best bet (with Sky Bet): Belgium to score 0-3 goals during the group phase at 13/5 - As previously discussed, Belgium don't really score many goals and may struggle more than the pundits and fans expect.
Outright odds (with Sky Bet): 11/2
To win group: 1500/1
To win group: 14/1
To qualify: 7/2
Full squad: Mohamed Lamine Zemmamouche (USM Alger), Rais Mbolhi (CSKA Sofia), Cedric Si Mohamed (CS Constantine); Carl Medjani (Valenciennes), Aissa Mandi (Reims), Madjid Bougherra (Lekhwiya), Faouzi Ghoulam (Napoli), Rafik Halliche (Academica), Essaid Belkalem (Watford), Liassine Cadamuro (Real Mallorca), Djamel Mesbah (Livorno), Mehdi Mostefa (Ajaccio); Sofiane Feghouli (Valencia), Saphir Taider (Inter Milan), Medhi Lacen (Getafe), Abdelmoumen Djabou (Club Africain), Yacine Brahimi (Grenada), Nabil Bentaleb (Tottenham), Hassan Yebda (Udinese), Riyad Mahrez (Leicester); Islam Slimani (Sporting Lisbon), Hilal Soudani (Dinamo Zagreb), Nabil Ghilas (Porto).
Manager: Vahid Halihodzic
World Cup record: Group stage (1982, 1986, 2010)
How they qualified (most recent first): Despite a disastrous Africa Cup of Nations in which they managed just one point, Algeria decided to stick with under-pressure boss Vahid Halihodzic and their faith was rewarded by a relatively straight-forward passage. Algeria dropped just two points in seeing off Mali, Benin and Rwanda as they advanced to the decisive play-off round, where they were drawn to face Burkina Faso. Having lost the first leg away 3-2, a nervy 1-0 victory in the return match saw them progress to Brazil on the away-goals rule.
v Burkina Faso (home) 1-0 (HT 0-0) Bougherra 49
v Burkina Faso (away) 2-3 (HT 0-1) Feghouli 50, Medjani 69
v Mali (home) 1-0 (HT 0-0) Soudani 51
v Rwanda (away) 1-0 (HT 0-0) Taider 51
v Benin (away) 3-1 (HT 2-1) Slimani 38, Slimani 42, Ghilas 78
v Benin (home) 3-1 (HT 1-1) Feghouli 10, Taider 60, Slimani 90+2
v Mali (away) 1-2 (HT 1-1) Slimani 6
v Rwanda (home) 4-0 (HT 2-0) Feghouli 26, Soudani 32, 83 Slimani 80
Goalscorers: Algeria's very own SAS attacking threat of Islam Slimani and Hilal El Arbi Soudani scored eight of their side's 13 goals during the qualifying group stage - although the latter contributed most of those with five. Midfielder Sofiane Feghouli also chipped in with two goals, in addition to a crucial away strike against Burkina Faso in the play-offs.
Half-time/full-time: Of Algeria's 16 goals throughout the whole qualification process, only six were scored in the first half. Five of their eight qualifying games were level at the break - three of which were goalless - while the only two times Algeria were leading at half time they did go on to win the game.
Clean sheets: From the eight qualification matches, the Algerians kept four clean sheets, three of which came at home, the other in a 1-0 away win against Rwanda. The three goals conceded in the first leg of their play-off tie with Burkina Faso was only the second time they conceded more than one goal in a game.
Win to nil: Algeria recorded four wins to nil (in eight games), including the crunch play-off second-leg tie with Burkina Faso.
Cards: Counting reds as two, Algeria's eight qualification games produced 29 cards. Of these, Algeria received seven yellows and no reds - a good disciplinary record by almost anyone's standards.
Other competitive internationals (most recent first): Last year's Africa Cup of Nations campaign was a disappointing one - Algeria bowed out in the group stage, picking up just one point from their three matches.
v Ivory Coast (neutral) 2-2 (HT 0-0) Feghouli 64, Soudani 70
v Togo (neutral) 0-2 (HT 0-1)
v Tunisia (neutral) 0-1 (HT 0-0)
Build-up (most recent first): Algeria have played three friendlies since they booked their place at the World Cup last year and, encouragingly, have won them all.
v Romania (neutral) 2-1 (HT 1-1) Bentaleb 21, Soudani 66
v Armenia (neutral) 3-1 (HT 3-0) Belkalem 13, Ghilas 22, Slimani 41
v Slovenia (home) 2-0 (HT 1-0) Soudani 45+3, Taider 56
Team verdict: Algeria are clearly no pushovers - as they proved in South Africa when conceding just two goals in a group including England, USA and Slovenia - but you just have to question whether they can do something they failed to do so four years ago and actually score one themselves.
The betting suggests they are in a two-horse race with South Korea to finish third at best so don't look to Algeria as Africa's best hope of becoming the continent's first ever World Cup winner!
They are 14/1 to top Group H and 7/2 just to qualify for the next round which would be an outstanding achievement. I'm sure if Vahid Halihodzic were being honest, he'd say avoiding three defeats would be the primary objective and, at a push, a win over South Korea, but unless they pull off a shock victory over Belgium or Russia then an early flight home is pretty much unavoidable.
Best bet (with Sky Bet): Tournament goals under 2.5 at 4/6 - Despite being highly unlikely to progress, you can expect them to set their stall out to frustrate their higher-ranked rivals. Four years ago they conceded just two when finishing bottom of their group and only second-placed England pipped them by letting in one. At the other end, they'll certainly struggle for goals so that's the market I'm going to.
Outright odds (with Sky Bet): 11/2
To win group: 80/1
To win group: 9/4
To qualify: 1/2
Squad: Igor Akinfeev (CSKA Moscow), Yury Lodygin (Zenit St Petersburg), Sergey Ryzhikov (Rubin Kazan); Vasiliy Berezutskiy, Sergey Ignashevich, Georgiy Schennikov (all CSKA Moscow), Vladimir Granat, Alexey Kozlov (both Dynamo Moscow), Andrey Eschenko (Anzhi Makhachkala), Dmitry Kombarov (Spartak Moscow), Andrey Semenov (Terek Grozny); Igor Denisov (Dynamo Moscow), Alan Dzagoev (CSKA Moscow), Roman Shirokov (Krasnodar), Denis Glushakov (Spartak Moscow), Viktor Faizulin, Oleg Shatov (both Zenit St Petersburg); Yury Zhirkov, Alexey Ionov, Alexander Kokorin (all Dynamo Moscow), Alexander Kerzhakov (Zenit St Petersburg), Maxim Kanunnikov (Amkar Perm), Alexander Samedov (Lokomotiv Moscow).
Manager: Fabio Capello
World Cup record: Russia have only managed to qualify for two previous World Cups in 1994 and 2002 and on both occasions they failed to progress from the group stages. However, having reached the last three European Championships, they do at least head to Brazil with some major international tournament experience.
How they qualified: Russia's passage to Brazil was by no means straightforward but they just about managed to come out on top in what became effectively a two-horse race with Portugal in their group to qualify automatically. Fabio Capello's men finished just one point ahead of the Portuguese although had they not suffered a shock 1-0 defeat in Northern Ireland, they would have had more breathing space.
v Azerbaijan (away) 1-1 (HT 1-0) Shirokov 16
v Luxembourg (away) 4-0 (HT 3-0) Samedov 9, Faizulin 39, Glushakov 45+2, Kerzhakov 73
v Israel (home) 3-1 (HT 0-0) Berezutski 49, Kokorin 52, Glushakov 74
v Luxembourg (home) 4-1 (HT 2-0) Kokorin 1, 36, Kerzhakov 59, Samedov 90+3
v Northern Ireland (away) 0-1 (HT 0-1)
v Portugal (away) 0-1 (HT 0-1)
v Azerbaijan (home) 1-0 (HT 0-0) Shirokov 84
v Portugal (home) 1-0 (HT 1-0) Kerzhakov 6
v Israel (away) 4-0 (HT 2-0) Kerzhakov 7, 64, Kokorin 18, Faizulin 77
v Northern Ireland (home) 2-0 (HT 1-0) Faizulin 30, Shirokov 78
Goalscorers: Alexander Kerzhakov was Russia's top scorer in the qualifying phrase as he contributed five of their 20 goals including the crucial winning strike in the 1-0 victory over Portugal. Other names regularly on the scoresheet were fellow striker Aleksandr Kokorin (four) and midfield duo Viktor Faizulin (three) and Roman Shirokov (three).
Half-time/full-time: Generally speaking, Russia were pretty good at converting their six half-time leads into victories - managing to do so on five occasions. The only blemish to this record was the 1-1 draw in their final group game in Azerbaijan. On the flip side, the two games in which they trailed at the break - away at Portugal and Northern Ireland - they went on to lose to nil. Could this suggest they struggle to raise their game when the chips are down?
Clean sheets: Russia kept clean sheets in their first four games of qualification but only managed one more in the remaining six. That said, Fabio Capello's side never conceded more than one in any game so only shipped five in total. Three of the clean sheets were at home.
Win to nil: Of Russia's seven victories, five were achieved to nil including the 1-0 triumph over Portugal.
Cards: Counting reds at two, Russia's games produced 30 cards at three per game. Out of those, Fabio Capello's side received 11 yellows and no reds.
Other competitive internationals: None since the qualification period began. Prior to that, Russia failed to get out of the group stage at Euro 2012.
Build-up (most recent first): Russia have played six friendlies since their qualification for the World Cup, winning four and drawing the others with Serbia and Norway. One of the victories was against South Korea back in November, prior to the World Cup draw. Although the scorelines haven't exactly been eye-catching, the results do at least underline Russia are hard to beat.
v Morocco (home) 2-0 (HT 1-0) Berezutski 29, Zhirkov 58
v Norway (away) 1-1 (HT 1-0) Shatov 3
v Slovakia (home) 1-0 (HT 0-0) Kerzhakov 82
v Armenia (home) 2-0 (HT 2-0) Kokorin 21, Kombarov 43
v South Korea (neutral) 2-1 (HT 1-1) Smolov 12, Tarasov 59
v Serbia (home) 1-1 (HT 1-1) Samedov 30
Team verdict: There's no doubt Russia should expect to at least reach the last 16 and the odds suggest it'll be between them and Belgium for the top spot in Group H.
"Fabio Capello's side are 12/5 second favourites to go through as group winners which I feel it's well worth considering; the gap between the two sides is overstated in my opinion."
Let's not forget that although Russia haven't been to a World Cup since Belgium last did in 2002, a fair chunk of the current crop of players have experience of tournament football from Euro 2012 even though that did end in an early exit.
As mentioned in the Belgium section, I think this is a bigger factor than those who focus heavily on results and statistics would give it credit for and could well give the Russians a slight edge. They know what went wrong in Poland and Ukraine two years ago having started the tournament so brightly with four points from the first two games and will be eager to avoid a repeat occurrence.
In terms of top spot, much will obviously depend on their meeting with Belgium and judging by both sides' resilient defences, it could well be a low-scoring, cagey draw - a result which neither manager would be unhappy with. Therefore it could just come down to which team scores most in the other games and taking all my analysis of the group into account, I'd give the nod to Russia.
Best bet (with Sky Bet): Russia to win Group H at 9/4 - With Belgium's hopes being over-hyped in my view, Russia certainly have enough in their locker to upset the odds and top this group.
Outright odds (with Sky Bet): 11/2
To win group: 250/1
To win group: 6/1
To qualify: 6/4
Full squad: Sung-ryong Jung (Suwon Bluewings), Seung-gyu Kim (Ulsan Hyundai), Bum-young Lee (Busan I'Park), Jeong-ho Hong (Augsburg), Seo-ho Hwang (Sanfrecce Hiroshima), Chang-soo Kim (Kashiwa Reysol), Young-gwon Kim (Guangzhou Evergrande), Tae-Hwi Kwak (Al Hilal), Lee Yong (Ulsan Hyundai), Suk-young Yun (QPR), Joo-ho Park (Mainz), Dae-sung Ha (Beijing Guoan), Kook-young Han (Kashiwa Reysol), Dong-Won Ji (Augsburg), Sung-yueng Ki (Swansea), Bo-kyung Kim (Cardiff City), Chung-Yong Lee (Bolton), Jong-woo Park (Guangzhou R&F), Heung-min Son (Bayer Leverkusen), Kim Shin-wook (Ulsan Hyundai), Ja-Cheol Koo (Mainz), Keun-Ho Lee (Sangju Sangmu), Chu-Young Park (Arsenal).
Manager: Hong Myung-Bo
World Cup record: Fourth (2002), Last 16 (2010)
How they qualified (most recent first): After a bye to the third round of Asian qualifying, they topped a group which included Lebanon, Kuwait and the UAE. That effort took them through to the next stage where they went up against Iran, Uzbekistan, Qatar and Lebanon (again), with the objective to finish in the top two for automatic qualification to Brazil. It was far from easy - mainly due to two defeats against eventual table-toppers Iran - but in the end they snatched second ahead of Uzbekistan thanks to a nervy 1-0 victory over them in the penultimate round of games.
v Iran (home) 0-1 (HT 0-0)
v Uzbekistan (home) 1-0 (HT 1-0) OG 42
v Lebanon (away) 1-1 (HT 0-1) Chi-Woo Kim 90+7
v Qatar (home) 2-1 (HT 0-0) Keun-Ho Lee 60, Heung-Min Son 90+7
v Iran (away) 0-1 (HT 0-0)
v Uzbekistan (away) 2-2 (HT 1-1) Tae-Hwi Kwak 44, Dong-Gook Lee 58
v Lebanon (home) 3-0 (HT 1-0) Bo-Kyung Kim 31, 49, Ja-Cheol Koo 90
v Qatar (away) 4-1 (HT 1-1) Keun-Ho Lee 26, 80, Tae-Hwi Kwak 55, Shin-Wook Kim 63
v Kuwait (home) 2-0 (HT 0-0) Dong-Gook Lee 66, Jeun-Ho Lee 72
v Lebanon (away) 1-2 (HT 1-2) Ja-Cheol Koo 21
v UAE (away) 2-0 (HT 0-0) Keun-Ho Lee 88, Chu-Young Park 90+3
v UAE (home) 2-1 (HT 0-0) Chu-Yong Park 50, OG 63
v Kuwait (away) 1-1 (HT 1-0) Chu-Young Park 9
v Lebanon (home) 6-0 (HT 2-0) Chu-Young Park 8, 45+1, 67, Dong-Won Ji 66, 85, Jung-Woo Kim 82
Chu-Young Park top scored for the country with six goals, although this tally does include a hat-trick in the very first match against Lebanon which was won 6-0. His last goal came in the 2-0 victory away at Iran in the first group stage. Dong-Gook Lee and Keun-Ho Lee both netted four each.
Half-time/full-time: Only three of Korea's eight wins came when they led at half-time. Eight matches were level at the break - six of which being goalless - while they only trailed twice after 45 minutes, going on to lose one of those and drawing the other. Perhaps worthy of note is the number of late goals scored by the team - eight coming from the 80th minute onwards including four in stoppage time
Clean sheets: Korea only kept five clean sheets throughout the lengthy qualifying process and shipped 11 goals over the course of the 14 games. Not exactly a glowing reference for their defence compared with other sides in this World Cup finals group.
Win to nil: The Koreans registered five wins to nil - the same five games in which they kept their only clean sheets as there were no 0-0 draws.
Cards: Counting reds as two, South Korea games produced 55 cards. Korea received just 19 of these - all of which yellows.
Other competitive internationals (most recent first): Despite having home advantage, South Korea failed to win a game at last year's East Asian Cup finals. They finished third of the four teams involved.
v Japan (home) 1-2 (HT 1-1) Il-Lok Yun 32
v China (home) 0-0 (HT 0-0)
v Australia (home) 0-0 (HT 0-0)
Build-up: It's fair to say Korea's friendly results in the build-up to the World Cup have been rather inconsistent, with some decent results such as victories over Switzerland, Costa Rica and Greece mixed in with defeats to Croatia, Brazil, Russia, Mexico, USA, Tunisia and Ghana. At least they've been able to play plenty of games together to build a real team spirit which could be potentially valuable against an inexperienced tournament side such as Belgium.
v Ghana (neutral) 0-4 (HT 0-2)
v Tunisia (home) 0-1 (HT 0-1)
v Greece (away) 2-0 (HT 1-0) Chu-Young Park 18, Heung-Min Son 55
v USA (away) 0-2 (HT 0-1)
v Mexico (neutral) 0-4 (HT 0-2)
v Costa Rica (neutral) 1-0 (HT 1-0) Shin-Wook Kim 10
v Russia (neutral) 1-2 (HT 1-1) Shin-Wook Kim 6
v Switzerland (home) 2-1 (HT 0-1) Jeong-Ho Hong 59, Chung-Yong Lee 87
v Mali (home) 3-1 (HT 1-1) Ja-Cheol Koo 38, Heung-Min Son 47, Bo-Kyung Kim 57
v Brazil (home) 0-2 (HT 0-1)
v Croatia (home) 1-2 (HT 0-0) Keun-Ho Lee 90+4
v Haiti (home) 4-1 (HT 1-1) Heung-Min Son 21, 73, Ja-Cheol Koo 50, Jeun-Ho Lee 58
v Peru (home) 0-0 (HT 0-0)
Team verdict: Finishing second behind Iran and ahead of three nations who have never ventured to a World Cup during qualification hardly warrants much praise, while their recent friendly results won't exactly strike fear into Belgium, Russia or Algeria.
However, scorelines in friendlies shouldn't hold that much weight and perhaps we could put the lukewarm qualification campaign in a pretty easy group down to a degree of complacency.
What we can't ignore is the number of games this squad have played together over the past few years, which should give them a notable - albeit often underestimated - edge in terms of bonding and team spirit, while their friendly programme has ensured they've pitted themselves against a number of sides who will be heading to the World Cup this summer.
A number of their players also have experience of playing at a high level in Germany and England so let's not be naïve enough to think they're out of their depth.
Far from it. I can see them coming storming out of the blocks in a bid to catch Russia cold, and even if they fail I fancy them to beat Algeria and then potentially shock Belgium in what could well be a qualification decider.
Best bet (with Sky Bet): South Korea to qualify from Group H at 6/4 - A similar alternative would be to back them at 21/10 to be eliminated in the last 16 considering their next opponents would be any of the sides to come out of the 'Group of Death' - Germany, Portugal, USA and Ghana.
As previously mentioned, Belgium and Russia are generally expected to progress to the knockout stages in that order but I feel there could be a shock early casualty in this group, with South Korea being the team to ruffle a few feathers.
Throughout my analysis I've strongly doubted whether Belgium, despite the high number of recognisable names to English football fans, can rock up in Brazil with hardly any senior tournament experience between them and then take to a World Cup like a duck to water.
Russia are a strong outfit - albeit perhaps not quite as talented as Belgium on paper - but they have recent European Championship experience under their belt and will be eager to learn from their agonising group-stage exit in Poland and Ukraine two years ago.
South Korea have played so many games together over the course of this World Cup cycle to make up for a fairly weak qualification section and their team spirit, together with the heat and humidity factor, could be enough to pull off a win over either Russia or Belgium which would give them a great chance or going through.
Algeria will probably finish bottom but could well have a say in the outcome if they manage to hold any of the three superior sides to a goalless draw which is well within their capabilities.
Overall, my forecast for this group is Russia-South Korea-Belgium-Algeria.
- Odds correct as of June 5.