Football hipsters will be refilling their tankards with a favourite craft ale, neatly combing their beard and nervously smoothing down their lucky Keegan-era Hamburger SV shirt this afternoon, as the most extravagantly hyped dark horse team in World Cup history step into the fray. Belgium are the latest in a long line of international teams to be able to declare a golden generation of players, boasting European stars like Vincent Kompany, Romelu Lukaku and Eden Hazard all looking to make a name for themselves on the global stage.
However, the Red Devils are by no means reliant on a handful of superstar players. The squad boasts impressive strength in depth and significant levels of international experience, although only Bayern Munich’s veteran defender Daniel Van Buyten can boast any previous at the World Cup Finals. That was in Japan and Korea in 2002, Belgium’s last major senior international tournament. The wilderness period has been longer than perhaps the Belgians are used to, but they cruised through their qualifying group for 2014, adding weight to the sneaking feeling that all of the factors have aligned at the exact right time for Marc Wilmots’ side.
Their opponents, however, are no pushovers. Algeria are at their second successive World Cup Finals, comfortably winning CAF Group G ahead of Mali and are just outside the top 20 in the FIFA rankings – the highest rated of the five African teams who made it to Brazil. Their experience from their campaign in South Africa will no doubt help solidify what is already a tidy and efficient squad of players. Their star man is the Sporting CP centre forward Islam Slimani, a talented and consistent goalscorer who will be looking to address a possible area of weakness for the Algerian side. It’s a side that defends well as a unit, moves the ball well and has plenty of pace. Belgium go into the game as favourites but there’s every chance that they will have to live up to their pre-tournament billing to come away from Belo Horizonte this afternoon with a result.
The Twohundredpercent punditry panel, who have supped a fair few craft ales and combed a few bears in their time, for this game – positively gibbering with anticipation no doubt – are Jenni Silver and Ted “Flanders” Carter.
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So that’s that then, Belgium snooze for most of the game until Fellaini and Mertens remind them there’s a victory at stake
It is easily one of the highlights of this game
Driesmertens is exactly the word I would use to describe this Belgian performance.
Has any side in this World Cup deserved their lead less?
And Belgium have remembered they have a “dark horse” label to live up to as Mertens puts them ahead
Fellaini heads Belgium back into contention
Nice stat from @OptaJoe:
Romelu Lukaku failed to register a single touch in the opposition area during this match. Hooked.
Belgium don’t look very frustrated, some of the players look bored
Bit better from Belgium but barely brilliant
It’s the heat Ted, it’s gone straight to his vocal cords
Probably wise that they’ve brought poor Gordon Strachan in, the man looked like he might evaporate before the game…
And, as a friend pointed out on social media, the ITV song *is* less annoying if you just accept it and sing along to it….”Bra-zil, braa-zeeel”
Belgium really can’t be arsed at this point, can they? No energy
Can we have a magnadoodle of that fan waving his shirt in the air?
This has the air of a pre season friendly, not a World Cup game…
He’s had a nightmare with the spray there, the ref
Ferghouli with the spot kick – are there any other players at the World Cup with a ghostlike aspect of their name?
And Algeria go ahead…ooh
Vertonghen apparently “lazy” as he stumbled into the box
I’ve had a cheeky bet on Algeria to beat Belgium.
Bit of playacting there, somewhere Adrian Chiles is going mad
*whispers* I only realised recently that Tunisia is not an island, I was convinced it was
Alderweireld leaves so much space when he goes up the wing. Algeria will exploit that.
Kit watch: Belgium kit is strong, nice piping round the neck, works well with those daft fluro boots
Hazard looking fairly lightweight, again
Superb, the man across the road has England flags on his van (just seen him parking)
Marc Wilmots looks like a man who should be working in the local planning department
And with superb timing I can hear muttering on the baby monitor….he obviously wants to watch this game
Ooh bilingual anthem, how very exciting
Oh god, do I have to draw stuff too?