Where are the surprises? Despite the first shot going to Russia, this match has gone exactly as planned – planned by Fabio Capello, anyway. Belgium have managed to get into dangerous positions, but they’re blocked by the Russian defense, who are doggedly determined to let few balls trouble Igor Akinfeev. While Russia have been able to get forward on the counter, a lack of creativity means Belgium have generally been able to anticipate and keep their attacks in check.
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Other key moments
2′: Surprisingly, it’s Russia with the first shot of the game, but the strike from Maksim Kanunnikov is blocked.
12′: Thibaut Courtois pushes away a shot from Viktor Faizulin.
15′: Dries Mertens, who’s been lively for Belgium, sees his pass to Romelu Lukaku cut out by a stalwart Russia defense.
20′: It’s Mertens again, jinking to throw off two Russian advances, but he’s only able to put his shot against the side netting.
26′: Yet another questionable (non)call, as Toby Alderweireld catches Kanunnikov inside the area. Nothing doing, says the ref.
31′: Thomas Vermaelen, who injured himself in the warm-up but started anyway, has to come off. He’s replaced by Jan Vertonghen.
36′: It’s Mertens again! He’s having no problem getting down the right and terrorizing the Russia defenders, and this time Igor Akinfeev is forced to push away.
44′: Russia’s best chance falls to the head of Alexander Kokorin, with Courtois caught flat-footed. The keeper’s spared a blush when the shot flashes wide.
Belgium: Courtois, Alderweireld, Van Buyten, Kompany, Vermaelen (Vertonghen 31); Witsel, Fellaini; Mertens, De Bruyne, Hazard; Lukaku
Russia: Akinfeev, Kozlov, Ignashevich, Kanunnikov, Glushakov, Kokorin, Berezutskiy, Shatov, Samedov, Fayzulin, Kombarov
Question for the second half
Will Romelu Lukaku manage to make an impact on this match?
For the second game in a row, the young striker has done little to threaten the opponents’ goal. He’s had but one shot, which was duly blocked, while the majority of Belgium’s threat is coming from Dries Mertens on the right. Will Wilmots give him longer to snap his cold streak, or will we be seeing Divock Origi early in the second half once more?