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FIFA World Cup Preview: Belgium v Algeria

16 June 2014 15:48

The injury problems surrounding Belgium's squad have largely cleared ahead of Tuesday's FIFA World Cup Group H opener against Algeria.

Already without Aston Villa’s Christian Benteke - Belgium’s first-choice striker during an unbeaten qualifying campaign - boss Marc Wilmots was faced with a potential selection crisis in attack over the past week.

Romelu Lukaku, in many respects a readymade replacement for Benteke, only returned to training last Wednesday after sustaining a bruised ankle in the recent friendly with Tunisia.

Divock Origi hobbled out of a session on Saturday, but a scan on the Lille youngster's ankle came back clear and Lukaku has also expressed confidence that he will be able to take part in Belo Horizonte.

Midfielder Kevin De Bruyne has also been told he can play despite suffering an ankle knock in a training-ground challenge with Eden Hazard.

De Bruyne, Hazard and new squad addition Adnan Januzaj are among the plethora of exciting creative talents Wilmots has to work with, although there is a slight concern in defence after Thomas Vermaelen reported knee soreness after Saturday's training session.

Midfielder Axel Witsel is confident they will have a strong team available for the opening game, and the 25-year-old expects a tough battle from their African opponents.

"All the players are physically and mentally ready and are looking forward to our first game in Brazil," he said. "After all, you do not play in a World Cup every day.

"No match is easy at a World Cup, there are indeed no small teams in the World Cup. Algeria are an opponent who are hard to play against and have some very technically savvy players. They play very aggressive, and are not afraid of hard battles.

"Maybe I do expect a physical battle, but we will do everything to close our first match in the group triumphantly."

Algeria head into the match against Wilmots' lavishly gifted and much-fancied squad as outsiders, but defender Essaid Belkalem has taken confidence from some of the surprise results the World Cup has already thrown up.

"Just look at Spain, who are the reigning world champions," he told AFP.

"They were favourites and they took a beating against the Netherlands. Belgium are a good team but we have will and the ability to cope."

Hazard is one of the key threats that Belkalem and his defensive colleagues must deal with, although assistant coach Noureddine Kourichi does not want his players to become preoccupied by the Chelsea playmaker.

Kourichi added: "If we focus on Eden Hazard, we could have some nasty surprises.

"We know his qualities but also his weak points, but we can't focus especially on him, there are others, like Lukaku.

"We don't have a special plan against Hazard. We can mark and stop an opposing player with our own strategy."

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