World Cup Group H preview: Belgium v Algeria

Belgium take on African giants Algeria at Estadio Mineirao in Belo Horizonte on Wednesday June 18 from 2am (AEST).

Head to head

The first meeting between these Group H opponents ended in a goalless draw while their only other encounter, in 2003, saw the Belgians run out 3-1 winners.

The game

Belgium head to Brazil as the top dogs of Group H. They have outgrown their reputation as a dark horse for the illustrious trophy and are now fully fledged contenders.

In response, the Fennec Foxes have nothing to lose but plenty to prove going into this match after failing to score in their previous World Cup outing four years ago.

Their last goal on the global stage was scored by Djamel Zidane in 1986, and if they don't score in this version of the competition, they will earn the title of longest ever streak without a World Cup goal.

This contest, between two young teams full of potential, could set the tide of the group. A Belgium win could give them the confidence to go on and have their most successful campaign ever.

On the other hand an Algerian upset could throw the group wide open and justify the consensus that this is one of the tightest groups in the 2014 World Cup.

The big issue

Belgium had no defensive problems in qualifying, with Spain the only team to concede less goals.

The Red Devils also have a strong core but they face a potentially fatal problem in the full back positions. Manager Marc Wilmots has been forced to resort to natural centre halves in that position, who offer no assistance in attack.

This allows the likes of Eden Hazard and Kevin Mirallas to get forward but it leaves a huge gap between the lines, which Algeria’s star man, Sofiane Feghouli, will be primed to take advantage of.

The game breaker

Hazard and Feghouli are the two players to watch in the opening match of Group H.

Hazard was Chelsea’s main man this year with their attack revolving around his flair. He scored and created goals on a whim and the Belgian faithful will hope he can contribute similarly to their World Cup challenge.

Algeria must be wary of focusing too much on the 23-year-old however, as Belgium have plenty of other stars who will strike if given any space.

Feghouli may be the star of Algerian football but don't underestimate the rest of the squad. Algeria is made up of a solid squad of capable players, perhaps their best ever.

Feghouli is to Algeria what Hazard is to Belgium, but on a larger scale. The French-born midfielder has the potential to unlock defences with his extraordinary pace and supreme dribbling abilities.

Prediction: Belgium 1 – 0 Algeria 

Belgium have not scored more than 2 goals in any of their last 10 matches. If they want to overcome the power of the Fennec Foxes they need to be at their absolute best.