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The Clean Sheets: Nick and Andrew Discuss Group H

Andrew M. Laird

Andrew M. Laird

Andrew M. Laird is the Senior Soccer Editor for RotoWire, as well as a fantasy football and college basketball contributor.

Nick Pitner

Nick Pitner

Nick Pitner writes about fantasy sports for RotoWire. He supports Arsenal FC, the Green Bay Packers, and the New York Knicks, while specializing in those respective sports in his coverage for the site.

-----Original Message-----
From: Nicholas Pitner
Sent: Monday, June 2, 2014 8:35pm
To: Andrew M. Laird
Subject: Cleaning the Sheets


Group H may lack some of the traditional world powers, but upon further examination, a diamond in the rough could emerge from this group of Algeria, Belgium, Russia, and South Korea.

Specifically, I expect Belgium to be the darlings of this summer's tournament. The country has not made the World Cup since 2002, but thanks to a golden generation of all-around talent, the current Belgium setup has a real chance of making noise in Brazil. Premier League followers are well aware of players like Eden Hazard (Chelsea), Romelu Lukaku (Everton, on loan from Chelsea), and Vincent Kompany (Manchester City), while outside of England, Thibaut Courtois (Atletico Madrid, on loan from Chelsea), Daniel van Buyten (Bayern Munich), and Axel Witsel (Zenit St. Petersburg) have established themselves in European competition. "The Red Devils" may be young, but they are incredibly skilled and well-balanced. I can easily envision them becoming everyone's second favorite team.

On that note, I wonder how many Marouane Fellaini afro wigs we'll see in the stands...

-----Original Message-----
From: Andrew M. Laird
Sent: Monday, June 2, 2014 9:49pm
To: Nicholas Pitner
Subject: re: Cleaning the Sheets


I was on our SiriusXM show on Saturday and mentioned that Belgium has been so many people's dark horse pick that they can no longer be considered a dark horse.

Whatever we're calling them, they can be a real force in this tournament. There is just so much talent on the squad, and it's so disappointing that Aston Villa striker Christian Benteke is going to miss out with an Achilles injury.

Fellaini was the definition of a disappointment this year at Manchester United, but maybe he just needs a good World Cup to get him back on track. I think Belgium are the clear favorites to win the group, but it'll be interesting to see who can grab the second spot between Russia and South Korea.

The Russians won their qualifying group (including a 1-0 win over Portugal) and their defense has been very strong, while South Korea made it out of the group stage in 2002 (making it all the way to the semifinals) and 2010. Heung-Min Son scored 10 goals in 29 appearances this season for Bayer Leverkusen, but he'll have a tough time breaking through that Russian defense.

I've been picking Russia, but you cannot sleep on South Korea.

-----Original Message-----
From: Nicholas Pitner
Sent: Monday, June 3, 2014 1:05pm
To: Andrew M. Laird
Subject: re: Cleaning the Sheets


Belgium's charismatic manager deserves a mention as well. Nicknamed "The Fighting Boar" during his midfield playing days, Marc Wilmots led his side to an undefeated record in qualifying. He's also Belgium's all-time leading scorer in World Cup play with five goals. On top of that, he served as a senator for two years. A deep run this summer could make him a hero back home.

I tend to agree that Russia could finish second behind the Belgians.

With Fabio Capello as manager, Russia is well organized and very disciplined, which should come as no surprise. Also, with the vast majority of Russia's team coming from either Zenit St. Petersburg, CSKA Moscow, Rubin Kazan, or Anzhi Makhachkala, the squad features more Champions League and Europa League experience than South Korea and Algeria combined. However, I wonder how the Russians will cope with the vastly different Brazilian climate.

South Korea will largely rely on Son, who at 21 years old is a fantastic prospect. I have a sneaky feeling about Algeria though. They just seem feisty to me. Perhaps we'll see second place decided in their final match versus Russia.

-----Original Message-----
From: Andrew M. Laird
Sent: Monday, June 3, 2014 2:49pm
To: Nicholas Pitner
Subject: re: Cleaning the Sheets


I think "feisty" is a great word to describe Algeria, but I don't think they have enough to get beyond the Russians.

It's a perfect group for the Belgians but I fear people may be overrating them a bit if they go 3-0-0 in the group. It's not a great set of opponents and frankly, they should go 3-0-0. Interestingly, the winner of Group H plays the second-place team in Group G, which could be Portugal or the USA, giving them a decent path to the quarterfinals.