Much is expected from Belgium's impressive roster at this World Cup and everyone will get to witness a first sample when the Red Devils take on underdogs Algeria in a Group H encounter. Belgium and Chelsea striker Romelu Lukaku has been declared fully fit for his side’s World Cup opener against Algeria in Belo Horizonte on Monday. The Chelsea forward, who spent last season on loan at Everton, injured his ankle in the Belgians’ 1-0 friendly win against Tunisia last week but resumed full training on Wednesday and told the media on Sunday he was looking forward to participating in his nation’s first World Cup since 2002. Lukaku is set to start for Belgium after Aston Villa striker Christian Benteke was ruled out of the tournament with a serious injury in April.
The 21-year-old is in fine form after scoring against Sweden earlier this month and then netting a hat-trick in Belgium’s 5-1 win over Luxembourg, although that match is not now recognised by Fifa as coach Marc Wilmots made seven substitutions instead of the permitted six. Wilmots, now 45, is the last Belgian player to have scored in a World Cup after netting against Russia in 2002. Belgium later lost out to Brazil in the second round, with Wilmots (appearing in his fourth World Cup) seeing a strike controversially disallowed in that match against the eventual winners. Back in Brazil as coach, Wilmots is sweating on the fitness of Kevin De Bruyne and Divock Origi, although both are expected to shake off ankle problems in time for the game against Algeria at the Estadio Mineirao.
North African side Algeria are participating in their fourth World Cup and will be aiming to make it out of the group stage for the very first time. The side, coached by Vahid Halilhodzic, overcame Burkina Faso on away goals to qualify for this competition and warmed up for the showpiece in Brazil by beating Armenia 3-1 and Romania 2-1 recently. Midfielder Hassan Yebda is doubtful for the Group H clash with an ankle injury.
Belgium have won one of their last nine World Cup games (3-2 v Russia on 14th June 2002), drawing five and losing three. They have kept one clean sheet in these nine games: v Netherlands in 1998 (0-0).
Belgium are unbeaten in their last two World Cup group stages, in 1998 and 2002 (Won-1 Drew-5).
Algeria have failed to score in their last five World Cup games, attempting 71 unsuccessful shots since their last goal on 3rd June 1986 against Northern Ireland (1-1, Djamel Zidane with the goal).
Belgium are unbeaten in two previous internationals against Algeria, winning one and drawing one (both friendlies).
Thibaut Courtois saved 87.1% of shots faced in the European qualifiers, the best ratio among goalkeepers who featured more than five times.
Eight of Belgium's ;last 14 games at the World Cup have come from set-pieces ( 5 from corners, 2 from direct free-kicks, 1 from an indirect free kick).
Only Spain (3) conceded fewer goals than Belgium (4) in the 2014 European World Cup qualifiers.
The Red Devils are unbeaten in two previous World Cup games against sides from Africa, winning one and drawing one.