In the matchday that ends the second round of matches in the group stage we get to finish Group F as the United States meet with the reeling and injured Portugal, while Group H gives us what beforehand was supposed to be the match for the first place between Belgium and Russia, while South Korea play with Algeria.
The late match of the day might also be the most interesting. The Americans didn’t look great in the win over Ghana, but their tactics worked very well. A defensive scheme and pressure that made Ghana feel very uncomfortable, and it’ll be interesting to see if Klinsmann changes anything because of Portugal’s low morale going into the match, the unclear situation with Cristiano Ronaldo and the fact that Portugal don’t actually want to move the ball, instead preferring simply counter attacking.
Things are a mess in Portugal, although they might feel a bit encouraged after Germany dropped points against Ghana, not to mention Ghana now needing a win against Portgual on the final day. Cristiano Ronaldo will be playing according to all the reports despite the warnings, but Portugal will be without Hugo Almedia (good for them), Fabio Coentrao and Pepe. They’ll need to stop hiding away from actually dominating the ball at some point, and this might be their last chance.
For the United States, there’s more than one way they can play, although their tactics against Ghana seem to fit them the best when it comes to playing on paper Superior teams. Ball movement isn’t exactly a strong suit when it comes to Michael Bradley and the others, but pressing high and showing their incredible fitness and pace on attack is. For them, Portugal trying to move the ball slowly in the back is preferable to Cristiano Ronaldo counter attacking.
The opening match of the day might be the one in which Belgium secure qualification. This will be a very different match against a Russian team that won’t look to destroy the match the same way Algeria did. The young Belgian side won’t be as shaky and slightly stunned by the affair as they were in the first match, which means we should be able to see a lot more from Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku, who were huge disappointments in the first match.
Russia didn’t lose against South Korea, but dropped two points because of some complacency in the front and that foolish goal conceded by Igor Akinfeev. Fabio Capello loves to switch things up and although his team isn’t exactly built for defensive approached, we’ll probably see a more cautious look which relies on the speed of of his front four, hoping they will be a bit more accurate this time.
The least interesting match of the day for the casual fan will be South Korea when they play Algeria. Algeria are the same thing we got from Iran in their two matches, only they were lucky enough to score (and lose) against Belgium. The defensive approach with 10 men behind the ball and rarely attacking with more than two players will continue, as Feghouli remains their biggest chance of getting something.
South Korea impressed against Russia but they’ll enjoy less open spaces against the Algerians. A quick goal might be able to counter all that, but we’ll probably need to see the best of what their off the ball movement and ability to get short passes in small spaces going if we want this match to be going somewhere.