World Cup: Revenge in Rio is best served cold for Russia

Updated: June 22, 2014
Aleksandr Kerzhakov (pictured) featured the last time Russia played Belgium at this level in 2002

Aleksandr Kerzhakov (pictured) featured the last time Russia played Belgium at this level in 2002

Today’s games

Group H: Belgium v Russia; Maracanã – Estádio Jornalista Mário Filho, Rio De Janeiro, Brazil; Monday, June 23, 2am

Group H: South Korea v Algeria; Estadio Beira-Rio, Porto Alegre, Brazil; Monday, June 23, 5am

Group G: USA v Portugal; Arena Amazonia, Manaus, Brazil; Monday, June 23, 8am

World Cup rivalries can pop up in the strangest places, and this one is worthy of the mighty stage of the Maracanã as Belgium and Russia battle for the two qualifying spots in Group H. As unlikely as it may seem, these two nations have played out a trio of memorable World Cup clashes with the Russians desperate to atone for the heart-breaking defeats they suffered on each occasions.

Amid the convoluted structure of Spain ’82, the-then Soviet Union needed to better a big win over the already-eliminated Belgians to progress from the second round but were held to a 1-0 defeat. The Soviets, under the great Valery Lobanovsky, entered Mexico ’86 with high hopes and were favoured to dispatch Belgium in the second round. But in a disgraceful display of refereeing from Erik Fredriksson, he allowed two goals to Belgium scored by players in offside positions before the Soviets imploded and lost 4-3.

Fast forward to 2002, where Russia needed just a point against the Red Devils in the final game to progress from the first round. With 12 minutes to play, the score was 1-1 before Wesley Sonck and Marc Wilmots scored. Aleksandr Kerzhakov then scored on debut for Russia just seconds before the final whistle, but there was to be no fairytale third as the Belgians prevailed 3-2.

Two players from that 2002 contest will be in Rio for tonight’s clash. Kerzhakov will certainly be motivated to exact revenge for that defeat 12 years ago while one of the Belgian scorers from that match-up, Wilmots, is now coach of his national team. Neither side set the world on fire in their opening game. The seeds and group favourites Belgium came from behind the defeat to Algeria while Fabio Capello’s Russia hardly impressed in a 1-1 draw against South Korea with Igor Akinfeev’s howler summing up what was a pretty average game.

Kerzhakov and Alan Dzagoev added a sharper attacking edge when they were introduced and can expect to see more minutes here. However, Russia have significant problems when defending on the flanks, as Andrey Eshchenko is inexperienced at this level while Dmitri Kombarov looks well below peak fitness. That will mean wingers Aleksandr Samedov and Yuri Zhirkov will be forced to drop back in support, hindering Russia’s attacking opportunities.

The South Koreans didn’t take full advantage but the Belgians will. They seemed to shake off the nerves towards the end of their opening game and carry significant motivation forward. We suspect that Wilmots will shift Kevin de Bruyne back to his favoured number 10 position after he thrived in that spot in the final 20 minutes against Algeria.


Confirmed bets

Belgium WIN v Russia (one unit @ $2.05) – in addition to the reasons outlined above, this is another game in which the weather will make an impact with the forecast for a temperature of 28ºC and 85 per cent humidity. Belgium played their opening game in relatively mild conditions in Belo Horizonte’s Estadio Mineirao while Russia made the long trip to the centre of the continent for a hot and humid 90 minutes in Cuiaba. This scenario has played 3-0 for us in the second games of the first round and we expect the Belgians to run out this game strongly compared to Russia.

USA +1 v Portugal (one unit @ $1.95) – we were genuinely surprised to see the number so heavily against Portugal for this “rumble in the jungle”. The four-goal differential is pretty much insurmountable so they face the prospect of having to defeat the US here and Ghana in their final game to progress. It’s also abundantly clear that Cristiano Ronaldo is nowhere near 100 per cent fitness. Portugal’s record in its past eight World Cup game reads a miserable W1 D3 L4. A draw suits the US here. They’re also on a run of four successive wins and have beaten Portugal in their past two meetings.


South Korea v Algeria WIN


Most recent results: 1-0-1, +0.76 units; overall record: 13-0-9, +12.06 units

Argentina -2 (one unit @ $2.05) v Iran LOSE (1-0)

Germany v Ghana +3 (two units @ $1.88) WIN (2-2)

• Selections are listed in three categories – 1) Suggested (likely bet but yet to be finalised); 2) Confirmed (locked in at the price listed); and 3) Leans (tips, but not recommended bets); all times quoted are Australian Eastern Time (AET); prices with thanks to BetEasy (except where markets are not available), correct at time of publication. Results/comments on today’s games/races will follow in the next post.


  1. Mike Dwyer

    June 22, 2014 at 7:07 pm

    Awesome job on the World Cup tips, this is the best kept secret I have come across, keep it up

    • Sean Callander

      June 23, 2014 at 3:27 pm

      Thanks for the feedback Mike, we’ve been extremely happy with the World Cup so far

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