Russia stands between Belgium’s dream

Rio De Janeiro : Having come from behind to beat Algeria in their opening game, Belgium can reach the World Cup knockout phase by beating Russia at Rio de Janeiro’s Maracana today.

Marc Wilmots’s ‘golden generation’ looked destined to make a meek entrance into the tournament after falling behind to a Sofiane Feghouli penalty in Belo Horizonte on Tuesday, but late goals from substitutes Marouane Fellaini and Dries Mertens got them off to a winning start.

With Russia having been held 1-1 by South Korea in their Group H opener, the last 16 is already within sight for Belgium, who are seen as dark horses to win the tournament after going through qualifying unbeaten.

Belgium centre-back Nicolas Lombaerts, who plays for Russian side Zenit Saint-Petersburg, knows better than most what to expect from Fabio Capello’s side, and he expects his team-mates to have a physical edge. “Capello places lots of importance on organisation,” said the 29-year-old, whose side are appearing at a first major tournament since 2002.

“We’ll have to pay attention on the turnovers. Russia are not very physical. Our size should be an advantage. They’ve only got two players taller than six foot (1.85 metres). They’ll try to hurt us by keeping the ball on the ground.”

Lombaerts is on standby to play in case Belgium captain Vincent Kompany is unable to shake off a minor groin complaint.

The defender missed training, but Wilmots is confident that he will be able to take part in Saturday’s eve-of-match session at the Maracana.

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