Belgium had to dig deep, and then some, to open their FIFA World Cup 2014 campaign with a win over Algeria. Come Sunday, they will know they are in for another difficult contest when they face Russia at the Maracana, a team desperate for points after a disappointing opener.
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The Group H game is set for a 1 pm local time (9.30 pm IST, 5 pm BST, 12 pm ET) start with live coverage on Sony Six and Sony Six HD in India. The match can also be watched via live streaming online HERE in India. Catch the game in the UK on ITV and BBC with the live streaming option HERE or HERE. US viewers can watch the big game on ESPN and ABC while you can also live stream the action HERE. Australia viewers click HERE to watch the game online, while Africa viewers can live stream it HERE. The match can be live streamed by viewers in Belgium HERE, with South Africa viewers able to catch the match HERE.
Eden Hazard and co. were facing up to the possibility of a shock defeat to Algeria after going down to an early goal, only for Marc Wilmots to make use of his immense squad depth to pull Belgium out of seriously troubled waters.
Marouane Fellaini showed what he is capable of, scoring a nice equaliser after coming on from the bench before Dries Mertens put his stamp on the game with a pure finish to ensure Belgium would being their return to the World Cup on the perfect note.
Expected to coast through Group H a leaders, Belgium will not only be expected to improve their performance, but also pick up another three points over Russia.
"Our situation is good," Wilmots said. "We are not required to take the game to them. Algeria was a game that we had to win to get into a strong position. Now I think it's more Russia that has to take things in hand. Will they do it or not? That's the question."
Wilmots will certainly hope Russia come at them much more than Algeria did, as Belgium seriously struggled to break down their opponents in the first game – of course, it is never easy to find a way past any team when they have ten men behind the ball, and as this World Cup has shown time and again, there really are no "weak" teams anymore, all 32 of them are capable of pulling off victories.
For Russia, this match will be about improving their performance as well, after Fabio Capello's men needed a late equaliser to pick up a point against South Korea in their Group H opener.
"I thanked the team for their reaction and told them that was the greatest birthday gift I could receive," Fabio Capello told reporters after Alexander Kerzhakov scored a 74th minute equaliser to ensure the experienced Italian coach would begin his World Cup debut with Russia with a win. "It means the team is great and they can do it."
While the pressure might seem on Russia after their underwhelming result in their opener, Capello insisted it is Belgium who will be again expected to come up trumps, while hinting their fellow Europeans were a little lucky to take three points against Algeria.
"Nothing whatsoever changes just because they won the first match," Capello said. "They suffered too. They had three chances and scored twice. We had the chance to score a second goal and we failed to do that. That's where the difference lies."
Team news: Belgium: Skipper Vincent Kompany has declared himself fit after struggling with a groin strain for the past few days in a major fillip for Wilmots. Mertens is expected to start in place of the ineffective Nacer Chadli on the wings, but it remains to be seen if Fellaini gets a run out from the beginning as well.
Russia: Capello might start for goal-hero Kerzhakov for Alexander Kokorin, while playmaker Alan Dzagoev will also be pushing for a place in the first XI. Capello insisted Igor Akinfeev would continue in goal, despite his mistake which allowed South Korea to take the lead.
"He is a great goalkeeper, one of the best in the world," Capello said.
Expected lineups: Belgium: Courtois; Alderweireld, Van Buyten, Kompany, Vertonghen; Witsel, Dembele; Mertens, De Bruyne, Hazard; Lukaku.
Russia: Akinfeev; Eshchenko, Ignashevich, Berezutskiy, Kombarov; Fayzulin, Glushakov, Zhirkov; Samedov, Kerzhakov, Dzagoev.
Prediction: 2-1 to Belgium