Belgium's Fellaini celebrates after scoring against Serbia during their 2014 World Cup qualifying soccer match at the King Baudouin stadium in Brussels

World Cup Today: Brazil, Mexico compete for Group A; Group H kicks off

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WORLD CUP TODAY: TUESDAY, JUNE 17

Each of the 32 World Cup teams will have played one tournament match by the end of Tuesday, as Group H makes its maiden voyage in Brazil. Meanwhile, Mexico and Brazil will duel in the hopes of securing frontrunner status for the knockout rounds, as each teams won its first match.

Group H is the group that will be paired with the winners of the United States’ Group G come the first knockout round.

As for Monday, the United States survived a game test from Ghana thanks to a late John Anthony Brooks header, Germany dominated Portugal, and Nigeria and Iran tested eyelids in a scoreless draw.

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MATCH 15: BELGIUM VS. ALGERIA
Location: Estádio Mineirão, Belo Horizonte
Time: Noon ET
SOCCERLY PREVIEW | SOCCERLY MATCHCENTER

Cheater’s guide: Time to see whether Belgium is the giant many claim. With a wide variety of Premier League stars and plenty of depth at every position, Belgium should be able to handle stingy Algeria. After being shut out at the 2010 World Cup, Algeria seeks its first tournament goal since 1986.

What they’re saying:
Belgium head coach Marc Wilmots: “The international press have called us an outsider and a favourite at the same time. It is a great pleasure to be back in the competition with players who are hungry and have a desire to achieve.”For Hazard and les Diables Rouges, back on the world stage after too long away, it is time to deliver.

History:
Belgium has beaten Algeria once, and the two nations drew their other encounter but haven’t squared off since 2003.

Premier League players:
Belgium: Simon Mignolet (Liverpool), Thomas Vermaelen (Arsenal), Vincent Kompany (Manchester City), Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham Hotspur), Marouane Fellaini (Manchester United), Mousa Dembele (Tottenham Hotspur), Nacer Chadli (Tottenham Hotspur), Romelu Lukaku (Chelsea), Eden Hazard (Chelsea), Kevin Mirallas (Everton), Adnan Januzaj (Manchester United).
Algeria: Riyad Mahrez (Leicester City), Nabil Bentaleb (Tottenham Hotspur)

RELATED: World Cup news, analysis from Soccerly

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source: Getty ImagesMATCH 17: BRAZIL VS. MEXICO
Location: Estádio Castelão, Fortaleza
Time: 3pm ET
SOCCERLY PREVIEW | SOCCERLY MATCHCENTER

Cheater’s guide: The hosts got plenty of officiating breaks in their opening win over Croatia, while Mexico had to overcome brutal linesman work in its victory over Cameroon. This one’s for group dominance, most likely, and it remains to be seen whether the hosts will find their form… and if Mexico can keep theirs.

What they’re saying:
Brazil head coach Luiz Felipe Scolari on Hulk’s fitness: “If there is a problem with Hulk I will have to completely change the system we have used for some time. The way he positions himself, on the right and on the left (makes him a threat). But I have players with different characteristics and qualities who can bolster the team.”

History:
Brazil has a 22W-6D-10L record against Mexico, but El Tri triumphed in the 2012 Summer Olympics.

Premier League players:
Brazil: David Luiz (Chelsea), Oscar (Chelsea), Ramires (Chelsea), Willian (Chelsea), Paulinho (Tottenham), Fernandinho (Manchester City)
Mexico: Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez (Manchester United)

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source:  MATCH 16: RUSSIA VS. SOUTH KOREA

Location: Arena Pantanal, Cuiabá
Time: 6pm ET
SOCCERLY PREVIEW | SOCCERLY MATCHCENTER

Cheater’s guide: Two teams that bring a bit of mystery to the World Cup, as both clubs have a remarkable amount of home-based club players. Russia actually has zero players plying their trades outside their borders. This could be a great prime time match-up for neutrals.

What they’re saying:
Korean captain Koo Ja-Cheol on their height disadvantage: “The Russians are a lot taller than we are.We’ve taken that into consideration. If it happens on the pitch we know what to do, how to defend ourselves against it – the main thing is to focus on our concentration.”

History:
The two nations paired up in November, with host Russia winning 2-1.

Premier League players:
Russia: None
South Korea: Yun Suk-Young (Queens Park Rangers), Park Chu-Young (Arsenal).

Seven unheralded stars of this Premier League season

during the Barclays Premier League match between A.F.C. Bournemouth and Tottenham Hotspur at Vitality Stadium on October 25, 2015 in Bournemouth, England.
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Look, it’s been a crazy year in the Premier League. Leicester City is top by five points, Chelsea is a bottom-half side, and not one of the league’s top three scorers hails from a team in last season’s Top Four.

So it follows that among the league’s other statistical leaders — advanced and traditional — are some surprisingly shining stars.

[ MORE: West Ham 3-2 Liverpool | Coutinho’s slick free kick ]

Or at least they aren’t mentioned a ton. We plan to rectify that here. By no means do we claim these statistical leaders without fault this season, but hats off to the good they’ve done (or, in some cases, the pain they’ve felt).

Most saves in a starring role

You wouldn’t know it from the goal totals these past few weeks, but Stoke City’s Jack Butland has been playing otherworldly between the sticks. His 87 saves lead the Premier League, and the Potters would be in the thick of a relegation battle if he hadn’t shone as brightly.

Ironman

Eleven players have played every minute of their side’s Premier League campaign this season (a 12th, Gareth Barry, has played all but one). Four of those 11 are goalkeepers, and six more are defenders. The only midfielder? Bournemouth’s South African standout Andrew Surman (above).

Top thief, too

Surman is also the league leader in interceptions with 92. The next seven players on the list, headed by Chris Smalling, are all defenders.

The most under-appreciated of the underdogs

Kante (Mark Thompson / Getty Images)

Leicester City has been fantastic, and people are quick to name Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy as big parts of the table-topping effort at King Power Stadium. Then, perhaps they’ll say something about goalkeeper Kaspar Schmeichel or defender Wes Morgan.

But how about the Premier League’s leader in tackles. Midfielder N'Golo Kante (right) has 115 tackles, 12 more than second-best Yohan Cabaye of Crystal Palace.

An all-expense paid journey to the massage parlor for…

Five players have been fouled more than 50 times this year, and you need to be around the ball a lot for that to happen. The four also-rans are Southampton’s Sadio Mane, Swansea City’s Andre Ayew, Everton’s Ross Barkley and Mahrez, but the man who deserved to skip to the head of the ice bath line is from Crystal Palace: Wilfried Zaha has been fouled 59 times. And that’s the amount of times the foulers were caught in the act.

Let Newcastle United’s captain climb in second, though; Fabricio Coloccini‘s 47 blocked shots are eight more than runners-up Neil Taylor (Swans) and Christian Fuchs (Leicester).

A man possessed

He hasn’t been heralded like a year ago, and most witnesses would tell you the midfielder’s been playing much worse. No, touches don’t equal success, but Cesc Fabregas‘ 2,027 credited touches are 74 more than the next player despite the fact that he’s the only player in the top four to have started less than 25 matches. He’s also completed 83 more passes than the closest competitor (Surman).

All-around stars

Advanced stats site Squawka uses an algorithm to generate statistics on who just might be the most complete player in the Premier League.

It’s certainly not foolproof, but the best player per-90 minutes would likely surprise you: Mousa Dembele of Spurs (Minimum 15 matches).

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As for who’s produced the most when numbers are averaged out over the entire game, one man rises to the top: Ross Barkley.

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Oft-targeted in the Premier League, Carvalho extends deal at Lisbon

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William Carvalho has been running through the rumor mill for ages, and Sporting Lisbon has made sure they’ll get their due if he ever stops somewhere else.

The Angola-born Portuguese defensive midfielder with 15 caps has extended his contract with Sporting through 2020, a date that carries him through his 28th birthday.

[ MORE: West Ham 3-2 Liverpool | Coutinho’s slick free kick ]

Carvalho is 23 now, and has been linked with loads of big name clubs from Manchester United to Chelsea, Arsenal to PSG.

His new buyout clause is said to be as high as $53 million, and Carvalho hopes his commitment calms his supporters.

“Sportinguistas, I say to you that I am very happy with the deal which I signed up to 2020 and that you will have total effort on my part to be champions.”

Sporting is tied with Benfica atop the Portuguese table, second on goal differential. The club leads third-place Porto by six points, and is still alive in the Europa League. Bayer Leverkusen is up next.

Klinsmann hints at Euro-heavy roster for World Cup qualifiers

FOXBORO, MA - SEPTEMBER 08:  Danny Williams #14 of the United States looks on before an international friendly against Brazil at Gillette Stadium on September 8, 2015 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images)
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If your favorite Major League Soccer players don’t make the cut for Jurgen Klinsmann’s next roster, don’t think you won’t see them in the red, white and blue this summer.

[ JPW: What’s the best XI for USMNT’s World Cup qualifiers? ]

Perhaps it’ll be different for the players who were a part of January camp — stars Lee Nguyen and Steve Birnbaum chief among them — but Klinsmann says the late start of the MLS season can affect fitness for the critical qualifiers home and away to Guatemala.

That means there’s a better chance to see in-form Championship midfielder Danny Williams (above) or Pachuca’s Omar Gonzalez then, say, Orlando City’s Brek Shea or Real Salt Lake’s Kyle Beckerman.

From USSoccer.com:

“We are basically looking all over the place. We monitor all the players in Europe. We monitor all the players in Mexico, and obviously we can’t wait until MLS starts as well. It’s really kind of crucial that we see everybody getting in the best shape possible, everybody getting into a rhythm and making statements.

“Then you say, ‘Is the roster you see at the end of March the same one as Copa America?’ Probably not. The end of March comes early for MLS players. The European players are in the full swing, and also Mexican players because they started already a month ago with Liga MX. So we’ll be monitoring everyone.”

We’ve already covered the obstacle that is the CONCACAF-CONMEBOL Olympic qualifying playoff occurring at the same time as the Guatemala matches, but this is still good news for players in England, Germany and other European locales seeking caps in March.

Klopp on struggling Benteke: “He wants to score and we need him to score”

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 09:  Christian Benteke of Liverpool reacts as he foiled by goalkeeper Darren Randolph of West Ham United during the Emirates FA Cup Fourth Round Replay match between West Ham United and Liverpool at Boleyn Ground on February 9, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
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Jurgen Klopp had his appendix removed this weekend, but it’s doubtful he’s feeling as sore as his big Belgian striker.

Christian Benteke had the opportunity to put himself in the good graces of Liverpool fans with a number of decent chances in Tuesday’s FA Cup loss to West Ham, but couldn’t get the job done.

[ MORE: Match recap | Watch Coutinho’s slick free kick ]

In one case, Benteke put himself in a prime spot only to lash his shot wide of the post. Instead, he’s now at 11 appearances without a goal (despite ripping nine shots against the Irons).

From the BBC:

“I don’t believe in the easy goal. He has to carry on like this. It’s not the nicest moment in his career but he has to work hard. He wants to score and we need him to score. We will work on it in the days, weeks and months.”

Klopp maintained that Liverpool was “the better team” on the night — counterpart Slaven Bilic disagreed — despite conceding a pair of very similar looking goals.

The game could’ve avoided extra time through Benteke’s boots and body, but he couldn’t find his finish again.

The 25-year-old has seen his goal production drop by nearly half since joining from Aston Villa in the summer, and it’s sure to return… just maybe not under Klopp.