Scouting Belgium

 

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It is very difficult to decide whether you’d call Belgium underrated or overrated before the World Cup. On one hand, they are not yet counted among the best – even when they have a top squad. And yet again, they are still being touted as the dark horse, even their success in previous international tournaments in minimum. 

However, placed in a group alongside Algeria, South Korea and Russia, fantasy players would surely be looking at them to deliver the goods. A Hazard, a Fellaini or a Lukaku – they have all been Fantasy Premier League darlings. But how do they weigh up here? 

 

SQUAD 

 

Goalkeepers: Thibaut Courtois (Atletico Madrid, on loan from Chelsea), Simon Mignolet (Liverpool), Koen Casteels (Hoffenheim).  

Defenders: Toby Alderweireld (Atletico Madrid), Laurent Ciman (Standard Liege), Nicolas Lombaerts (Zenit St Petersburg), Vincent Kompany (Manchester City), Daniel Van Buyten (Bayern Munich), Anthony Vanden Borre (Anderlecht), Thomas Vermaelen (Arsenal), Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham). 

Midfielders: Nacer Chadli, Mousa Dembele (both Tottenham), Steven Defour (Porto), Kevin De Bruyne (Wolfsburg), Marouane Fellaini, Adnan Januzaj (both Manchester United), Eden Hazard (Chelsea), Kevin Mirallas (Everton), Divock Origi (Lille), Axel Witsel (Zenit St Petersburg) 

Attackers: Romelu Lukaku (Everton, on loan from Chelsea), Dries Mertens (Napoli). 

 

There aren’t too many surprises in the squad, except the omission of midfielder Radja Nainggolan, and the absence of Villa striker Christian Benteke due to injury. United prodigy Adnan Januzaj makes the squad, and so does out-of-form teammate Marouane Fellaini 

 

TALKING UP PROSPECTS 

DEFENCE 

Thibaut Courtois is the #1 at goal, he is one of the better choices available if you want to stick to a single goalkeepers throughout the tournament.  Jan Vertonghen (left) and Vincent Kompany (centre) will be nailed-on, they will considerably cost you a large fortune, as well. For me, Toby Alderweireld is the best choice in defence. Anthony van den Borre is the only other guy who can play in the same position, but he is not really a threat to Alderweireld in terms of breaking into the XI. As of the other CB position, I’d see one of Thomas Vermaelen and Daniel van Buyten start, it is hard to say who. 

 

MIDFIELD 

It is very likely that Belgium will line up 4-2-3-1, so we are talking about two holding midfielders, two wingers, and one ”in the hole”. Axel Witsel has made one of the central midfield spots his own, so the other one is likely to go to either Marouane Fellaini or Moussa Dembele. Given the options upfront, I wouldn’t touch either, but given ‘you get one point each for every recovered ball’ in the McDonald’s official FIFA Fantasy, they might be in for a lookout. Attacking wise, Eden Hazard will be the most potent option on the left, coming off the back of a top season at Chelsea. However, Kevin de Bruyne, who will play behind the striker, might be the best Fantasy option for the midfield. With four goals in qualifying, Hazard’s former teammate will look to go all guns blazing. On the right, Kevin Mirallas or Dries Mertens will start, though the latter looks more likely. 

 

ATTACK 

It is all about Romelu Lukaku. He is the only established striker in the Belgium squad, and having already impressed in the pre-tournament friendlies. He is the man Belgium will bank on, for goals, and there is a huge possibility he won’t disappoint his team or his Fantasy loyalists. 

 

 

LIKELY STARTING XI 

Courtouis; Alderweireld, Kompany, Vermaelen, Vertonghen; Witsel, Fellaini; Mertens, de Bruyne, Hazard; Lukaku. 

 
MY PICKS 

Thibaut Courtois (GK), Toby Alderweireld (DEF), Eden Hazard, Kevin de Bruyne (both MID) and Romelu Lukaku (ATT). 

 

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Group A: A Comprehensive Preview

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So. Here is the World Cup finally. Something we wait all four years for.

But then, since we are so into club football, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to arm ourselves with knowledge of the countries participating. Atleast that makes for fun viewing.

Today, I take on Group A: consisting of hosts Brazil, Croatia, Mexico and Cameroon.

 

 

Brazil

 

Trivia: They’re like what Spain was in the last World Cup: hot favourites. At home, holders of the last FIFA tournament played, and in possession of a stable core of young players, they’re surely in good shape. But I’d say, completing the mission would be no easy task. Spain, Germany and Argentina- I’d atleast put these three teams on par with Brazil. So, some hardwork ahead for Brazil, surely?

 

Strengths: A very stable defence, mercurial attackers in Oscar & Neymar.

 

Weaknesses: No striker with good form going into the WC, Fred’s fitness issues, Julio Cesar’s absence from top tier of European football.

 

Squad:

 

Goalkeepers: Júlio César (Toronto FC), Jéfferson (Botafogo), Victor (Grêmio).

Defenders: Daniel Alves (Barcelona), Maicon (Roma), Marcelo (Real Madrid), Maxwell (Paris Saint-Germain), David Luiz (Chelsea), Thiago Silva (Paris Saint-Germain), Dante (Bayern Munich), Henrique (Napoli).

Midfielders: Luiz Gustavo (Wolfsburg), Paulinho (Tottenham), Ramires (Chelsea), Fernandinho (Manchester City), Oscar (Chelsea), Willian (Chelsea), Hernanes (Internazionale), Bernard (Shakhtar Donetsk).

Forwards: Fred (Fluminense), Neymar (Barcelona), Hulk (Zenit St Petersburg), Jô (Atlético Mineiro).

Probable XI:

 

(4-2-3-1) Cesar; Alves, Luiz, Silva, Marcelo; Gustavo, Fernandinho; Hulk, Oscar, Neymar; Fred.

 

Rating: 8.5/10.

 

Croatia

 

Trivia: They missed out on the 2010 WC altogether, and were in danger of the same, when they finished 2nd behind Belgium in their qualification group. However, after beating Iceland in the playoff, they are finally here. Not exactly a fancied team, but they surely have a lot of players plying their trade in top European teams. A team to look out for, surely.

 

Strengths: A very dynamic midfield; in-form players in Modric, Rakitic and Perisic; a settled core of players.

 

Weaknesses: An ageing defence containing Srna, Corluka and Pranjic; Mandzukic not in best of form; absence of Kranjcar.

 

Squad:

 

Goalkeepers: Stipe Pletikosa (Rostov/RUS), Danijel Subasic (Monaco/FRA), Oliver Zelenika (Lokomotiva Zagreb)

Defenders: Darijo Srna (Shakhtar Donetsk/UKR), Domagoj Vida (Dynamo Kiev/UKR), Sime Vrsaljko (Genoa/ITA), Danijel Pranjic (Panathinaikos/GRE), Vedran Corluka (Lokomotiv Moscow/RUS), Dejan Lovren (Southampton/ENG), Gordon Schindelfeld (Panathinaikos/GRE)

Midfielders: Luka Modric (Real Madrid/ESP), Ivan Rakitic (Sevilla/ESP), Mateo Kovacic (Inter Milan/ITA), Marcelo Brozovic (Dinamo Zagreb), Ognjen Vukojevic (Dynamo Kiev/UKR), Ivan Mocinic (Rijeka), Sammir (Getafe/ESP)

Forwards: Mario Mandzukic (Bayern Munich/GER), Nikica Jelavic (Hull City/ENG), Ivica Olic (VfL Wolfsburg/GER), Eduardo Da Silva (Shakhtar Donetsk/UKR), Ivan Perisic (VfL Wolfsburg/GER), Ante Rebic (Fiorentina/ITA).

Probable XI:

(4-2-3-1) Pletikosa; Srna, Lovren, Corluka, Pranjic; Modric, Rakitic; Olic, Kovacic, Perisic; Eduardo.

Rating: 6.5/10

 

Mexico

Trivia: They have had a turbulent three years on the road to Brazil 2014. After winning the CONACAF Gold Cup in 2011, they have had myriad problems affecting the squad: drug abuse rumours, players expelled from squad, and finally, a change in manager. And yes, they were extremely lucky to qualify, having only one two matches in qualifying, they had to beat New Zealand in a play off to make it to here. Coach Miguel Herrera will have a tough job on hand, even to qualify into the knockouts.

Strengths: An in-form striker in Peralta; Herrera’s confidence in local players; attacking potency of the wing-backs in Aguilar and Layun.

Weaknesses: Injury to Luis Montes, one of the stalwarts in midfields; relative inexperience of squad.

Squad:

Goalkeepers: Jesus Corona (Cruz Azul), Alfredo Talavera (Toluca), Guillermo Ochoa (Ajaccio)

Defenders: Andres Guardado (Bayer Leverkusen), Paul Aguilar, Francisco Rodriguez, Miguel Layun (all America), Hector Moreno (Espanyol), Rafael Marquez (Leon), Diego Reyes (Porto), Carlos Salcido (UANL Tigres)

Midfielders: Hector Herrera (Porto), Jose Juan Vazquez, Carlos Pena, Luis Montes (all Leon), Juan Carlos Medina (America), Isaac Brizuela (Toluca), Marco Fabian (Cruz Azul)

Forwards: Oribe Peralta (Santos Laguna), Javier Hernandez (Manchester United), Raul Jimenez (America), Giovani Dos Santos (Villarreal), Alan Pulido (UANL Tigres) .

Probable XI:

(5-3-2) Corona; Layun/Guardado, Moreno, Marquez, Rodriguez, Aguilar; Fabian, Pena, Herrera; dos Santos/Chicharito; Peralta.

Rating: 6/10.

 

Cameroon:

Trivia: Went easy-peesy in qualifying. Topped the qualifying group, and thrashed a higher-ranked Tunisia 4-1 in playoffs. A team that isn’t too fancied, they will rely on their experienced defence, and the strike force of Eto’o and Aboubakar. Might qualify for the knockouts, but a hard ask, atleast for now.

Strengths: Defence with European experience.

Weaknesses: Lack of game time for stars like Song, Assou-Ekotto and Eto’o; poor performance in a 4-4-2.

Squad:

Goalkeepers: Charles Itandje (Konyaspor/TUR), Ndy Assembe (Guingamp/FRA), Sammy Ndjock (Fetihespor/TUR), Loic Feudjou (Coton Sport)

 

Defenders: Allan Nyom (Granada/ESP), Dany Nounkeu (Besiktas/TUR), Cedric Djeugoue (Coton Sport), Aurelien Chedjou (Galatasaray/TUR), Nicolas Nkoulou (Marseille/FRA), Armel Kana-Biyik (Rennes/FRA), Henri Bedimo (Lyon/FRA), Benoit Assou-Ekotto (QPR/ENG), Gaetang Bong (Olympiakos/GRE)

 

Midfielders: Eyong Enoh (Antalyaspor/TUR), Jean II Makoun (Rennes/FRA), Joel Matip (Schalke 04/GER), Stephane Mbia (Sevilla/ESP), Landry Nguemo (Bordeaux/FRA), Alexandre Song (Barcelona/ESP), Cedric Loe (Osasuna/ESP), Edgar Sally (Lens/FRA)

 

Forwards: Samuel Eto’o (Chelsea/ENG), Eric Choupo Moting (Mainz/GER), Benjamin Moukandjo (Nancy/FRA), Vincent Aboubakar (Lorient/FRA), Achille Webo (Fenerbahce/TUR), Mohamadou Idrissou (Kaiserslautern/GER), Fabrice Olinga (Zulte-Waregem/BEL).

Probable XI:

(4-3-3) Itandje; N’Koulou, Chedjou, M’bia, Bedimo; Song, Enoh, Makoun; Webo/Aboubakar, Eto’o, Choupo-Moting.

Rating: 4.5/10.

Why This?

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I am crazy about football.

Yes, this is the game that never ceases to amaze me. I’m an avid watcher, and a huge Arsenal fan. And YES, we won a trophy this year. :’)

However, more importantly, I love football stats. I mean, team lineups and goal scorers and little trivia about games.

So here you go. I’ll be writing whatever I feel here. I assume it will make sense, and it will be up to all you whether they are worth reading.

Power to you.