Algeria v Russia – watch live on ITV4 at 9pm
Of the African nations on show in the 2014 World Cup, Algeria were hardly one of the bigger names. But Les Fennecs have been one of the more impressive among the quintet of sides representing the continent in Brazil, and they will be bidding to seal their place in the last-16 when squaring up against Russia in Curitiba on Thursday.
So far, of the five African sides, only Nigeria have progressed to the knockout phase, with Cameroon, Ghana and the Ivory Coast all falling by the wayside. The Algerians were widely expected to be the whipping boys in Group H, but they pushed Belgium hard in their opening match of the tournament prior to an emphatic victory over South Korea in Porto Alegre.
Algeria had not scored a World Cup goal for 28 years. However, Vahid Halilhodžić’s charges have already scored five times this time round, netting three in the first half against South Korea at the Estádio Beira-Rio and going on to win the match 4-2. Russian, on the other hand, only managed a 1-1 draw with the Taeguk Warriors before losing 1-0 to Belgium.
Still, despite not progressing from the group stage in their two previous World Cup adventures, Fabio Capello’s men are favourites across the board to outpoint Algeria at The Baixada arena, with 23/20 the best price on offer (Betfred and BetVictor). Meanwhile, the North African outfit can be backed at 11/4 with Ladbrokes.
Algeria v Russia betting advice
In many ways, the bookies’ approach to this match is similar to that of Monday’s clash between Costa Rica and England. The form book pointed firmly to Costa Rica being the superior side, yet Roy Hodgson’s men were odds on. Once again, bookmakers have tossed the formbook in the bin by installing the Russians as favourites for this game.
For me, Russia have not been at the races at all so far in Brazil. Yes, they’re organised and fairly solid, particularly at the back, but they didn’t show much desire against South Korea or Belgium. Up front, Capello’s side lack spark and creativity, and I reckon Algeria’s sheer determination will prove too much for them.
Algeria in the match result market – 11/4 (Ladbrokes)
South Korea v Belgium – watch live on ITV1 at 9pm
Belgium have already qualified from Group H, having beaten Algeria and Russia in their first two games, and South Korea will be hoping that Marc Wilmots fields a weakened side when they meet in São Paulo on Thursday.
Indeed, despite their 4-2 defeat at the hands of Algeria last time, Hong Myung-Bo’s side held Russia to a draw in their opening match of the tournament, and the precious point they picked up in Cuiabá offers a glimmer of hope that they could reach the last 16.
It is a faint glimmer of hope, though. In addition to requiring a victory against the Red Devils, South Korea need things to go their way in the Algeria-Russia fixture. The Taeguk Warriors’ goal difference is inferior to Algeria and Russia, which adds complexity to what is already an uphill task.
To be candid, Belgium have been disappointing in Brazil so far. In the build-up to the tournament they were billed as credible contenders, but their victories over Algeria and Russia were workmanlike at best. The likes of Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku will need to step up in the knockout phase.
South Korea v Belgium betting advice
Despite their rather lethargic displays in the first two games, Belgium will want to end Group H on top, so as to avoid a potential clash with Germany in the next round. Consequently, it’s unlikely that Wilmots will rest too many key players in the Arena Corinthians, and they really ought to prove too good for a limited South Korean side.
At 2/1 with Bet365 my money is on Belgium to win to nil. The Red Devils won’t bust a gut, knowing that a draw will be enough to ensure their status as group winners. Nevertheless, South Korea were shocking defensively against Algeria,and they will inevitably leave themselves vulnerable at the back as they go in pursuit of an unlikely win in this match.
Belgium to win to nil – 2/1 (Bet365)