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Wednesday, 11 June 2014

World Cup 2014 Group H Picks (June 17-26)

Everyone loves a dark horse and none have been darker than Belgium who have been shortening in the outright market over the last couple of years. There are big things expected of Belgium, but they haven't made a major international tournament since 2002 so inexperience is a concern.

Russia, who host the 2018 World Cup, South Korea, the Semi Finalists in 2002, and Algeria make up the section.

You can find my outright picks from the tournament here

Group A picks will be made here

Group B picks will be made here

Group C picks will be made here

Group D picks will be made here

Group E picks will be made here

Group F picks will be made here

Group G picks will be made here

Tuesday 17th June
Belgium v Algeria Pick: With many of their players taking part in the Premier League and a spine that looks as strong as any at the World Cup, Belgium have long been considered a dark horse to win this tournament. That has seen their odds shorten over the last couple of years in the outright market, although I am of the belief that the tournament will likely come too early for them and Belgium may be a lot more dangerous at the next European Championships in France.

In saying that, they couldn't have asked for a better Group as they are placed alongside Algeria, Russia and South Korea and the first game against the Algerians certainly gives Belgium a strong chance to open the Group with a win.

However, Algeria are a well organised team that showed they are tough to break down at the last World Cup when they held England to a goalless draw and had single goal losses to Slovenia and the United States. This time they have a splattering of young players from the French League and might be more of a threat going forward than when they failed to score in South Africa.

Algeria have nothing to lose from the game either as not many will be predicting them to win or to qualify from the Group and it is going to be interesting to see how Belgium react to the pressure of being a big favourite after most of the other top teams won their games.

Marc Wilmots is downplaying the pressure angle by saying his team can go out and enjoy themselves, but their recent friendlies have shown some vulnerabilities in the Belgium team. I don't think those will be totally exposed by Algeria, but I do expect the African qualifiers to make this a difficult first game despite how the tournament has gone to this point.

Belgium should win, but the value may be to pick them to win by a single goal margin.

Russia v South Korea Pick: The theory is that the Russians are looking ahead to the World Cup that they will be hosting in four years time and the expectation in Brazil is not great despite qualifying ahead of Portugal.

Fabio Capello is a top manager regardless of his time with England and I expect he will have Russia set up to be tough to beat- the problem for the Italian is that Russia are favourites to progress alongside Belgium and that means the onus is on them to get forward and score goals. That is particularly the case against South Korea who look the most dangerous team to their objectives in the Group and who have the pace and good technique in forward positions to cause plenty of problems for the Russians.

It is only a very poor qualifying campaign that has raised question marks about what South Korea can achieve at the World Cup, which is only backed up by their 4 losses in their last 5 friendly games. The 4-0 loss to Ghana in their most recent friendly has raised eyebrows, but I still believe this team can cause a bit of an upset in the opening games these nations play in Group H.

Belgium are likely to be the team to beat so there is a lot of positives that can come from a win in this game- while I expect South Korea's pace to trouble the Russian defence, the South Korean defence struggles to deal with crosses and set pieces.

Both teams could potentially score in the game, but I think a youthful and exuberant South Korea team can at least avoid a defeat in their first game which is being offered at odds against.

The favourites in this Group and everyone's favourite dark horse, Belgium, suffered a scare in their first game against Algeria, but showed some resiliency and belief to come back and secure a 2-1 win.

That puts them in a strong position in the Group thanks to the Russia-South Korea draw and the expectation is that Belgium can push on and win the Group to avoid a likely Second Round meeting against Germany.

On the other hand, the Russians and South Koreans may have to show a little more if Algeria produce what they did in the first game and potentially surprise by moving through.

Belgium v Russia Pick: The expectation is that Russia will take the blueprint produced by Algeria in sitting deep and hoping to pick off Belgium on the counter-attack, but there is a little more pressure on Russia who can't afford to be as 'negative' as they were at times against South Korea.

Belgium will have the lion's share of the possession, but they struggled to break down Algeria in the first game, but the three points allows them to be a little more patient because a draw here wouldn't be the worst result in the world, especially when it comes to winning the Group.

There is a chance that the teams cancel one another out especially if Fabio Capello sets up his Russian team to be hard to beat, but there is enough in the Belgium squad to suggest they can be the ones to take control of the game.

It might only take a goal, but Belgium to win and qualify looks the call.

South Korea v Algeria Pick: There have been games at the World Cup that I would not have expected a lot of goals and this is one of those, although Algeria showed more forward thinking than teams like Greece and may just be able to cause a shock.

The layers are unsure, although they agree that they are not expecting a lot of goals and I would perhaps go further and say one, or both, of these teams are going to fail to score.

South Korea looked very poor in the final third against Russia and will be facing an Algeria team that is happy to sit back and defend in numbers- there will have to be a lot of creativity that was untapped in the first game to think South Korea are going to constantly be testing the goalkeeper and they must just struggle for goals.

On the other hand, Algeria may show the belief in getting forward but may be lacking that little bit of quality in the final third themselves, while both teams may have to settle for a draw in the game. It has all the potential of being a tight game, another in Group H, and I think a small interest in one of the teams failing to score is my call.

Another late goal helped Belgium win their second game in the Group and virtually wrap up their place at the top of the section, which comes with the added bonus of avoiding Germany in the Second Round.

They can now rest a few players as they face South Korea who are all but out of the competition thanks to their 2-4 defeat by Algeria. The Algerians were very impressive in that game and they will feel confident that they can get a result against another Fabio Capello managed international side.

I would imagine the final place in the Second Round is decided from the Algeria versus Russia game to end the Group Stage of the World Cup, but the former have been more impressive to this point.

Algeria v Greece Pick: Fabio Capello said he didn't expect a lot from his Russia team at this World Cup with preparation already under way for when they host the next tournament in 2018, but this section should have been one they negotiate.

However, Russia have only earned one point from their first two games and now have to beat Algeria if they are to move through to the Second Round. That won't be easy as Algeria have the pace to hurt Russia when they go forward and play with a confidence that saw them take the lead against Belgium as well as dismantle South Korea in the first half of a 2-4 win.

Capello has had Russia defending well for the most part, but they look awkward when they are forced to go forward and that is where Algeria will look to pick them off and move through to the Second Round. 1982 saw Algeria essentially 'screwed' out of the tournament by Germany and Austria playing out the exact result they needed, but this time they have their own destiny in their hands.

I was close to picking Algeria to win this game as they have the counter-attacking ability to put Russia to the sword if the latter get too desperate, but it might be better to go with the same pick from the first round of games and just back Algeria to avoid defeat at close to evens.

South Korea v Belgium Pick: South Korea know exactly what they need to do if they are to qualify for the Second Round- they have to win this game by at least two goals and hope Algeria draw with Russia, or they have to beat Belgium by one more goal, at least, than Russia beat Algeria.

That puts them in a difficult position against Belgium and I think it is one that they are going to struggle to deal with as Japan found out to their cost against Colombia in their own final game.

To be perfectly honest, South Korea have looked like one of the poorer teams at the World Cup and clearly their struggle to qualify for the tournament wasn't just poor performances but probably more in line with how well they can play at this moment.

Belgium will make changes which can lead to some struggles, but they should have a counter-attack opportunity through the game and they have pace on the break which can expose South Korea and win their third game in the Group.

GROUP H PICKS: Belgium to Win by One Goal @ 3.80 Stan James (1 Unit) versus Algeria
South Korea + 0.5 Asian Handicap @ 2.15 Pinnacle (2 Units) versus Russia
Belgium @ 2.30 Pinnacle (2 Units) versus Russia
South Korea-Algeria Both Teams to Score: No @ 1.80 Sporting Bet (1 Unit)
Algeria + 0.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.90 Pinnacle (2 Units) versus Russia
Belgium @ 1.92 Pinnacle (2 Units) versus South Korea

Group H Update: 2-0, + 5.10 Units (3 Units, + 170% Yield)

1 comment:

  1. I want to see Germany and Brazil face off :)
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