Game on: Lineups and talking points for Belgium vs. Russia

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Belgium faltered against Algeria, but Marc Wilmots’ substitutes made the difference, inspiring a comeback 2-1 victory in their first match. Russia, too, had their difficulties. Igor Akinfeev’s horrible blunder allowed South Korea to take the lead, but Russia were able to find an equalizer, leaving them with just a point. Will either side get off to a better start this time around? Find out at 12 noon ET.

[ MORE: Belgium come back to beat Algeria | Russia manage a point against South Korea ]
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Belgium: Courtois, Alderweireld, Van Buyten, Kompany, Vermaelen; Witsel, Fellaini; Mertens, De Bruyne, Hazard; Lukaku

Russia: Akinfeev, Kozlov, Ignashevich, Kanunnikov, Glushakov, Kokorin, Berezutskiy, Shatov, Samedov, Fayzulin, Kombarov

Talking points

How will Belgium look when they play their subs from the start?
Against Algeria, Wilmots surprised almost everyone when electing to start Tottenham duo Mousa Dembélé and Nacer Chadli, with Chadli’s inclusion in the middle particularly surprising. Now the coach has shifted back to his usual 4-2-3-1 formation, with Marouane Fellaini and Dries Mertens included from the whistle. This lineup is certainly capable of putting a few goals past Russia – but they’ll need to be wary of not tiring themselves out.

Will Russia take the initiative? 
Russia failed to surprise in their first game (well, apart from the Akinfeev error; he’s usually fairly reliable). Fabio Capello’s men set out to stifle South Korea, a task they very nearly accomplished. But with Belgium the top team in Group H, it’s unlikely we’ll see anything different from Russia, who could draw today and still make it out of the group with a win over Algeria.

That Belgium will be able to overcome a dogged Russian defense. The Red Devils have numerous attacking options available, and goals could come from anywhere – their pacy midfielders, their strong central defenders (fullbacks are overrated, didn’t you know?) or the towering heights of Romelu Lukaku or Marouane Fellaini. If one combination doesn’t work, Wilmots will be able to try a different key.

One blogger’s prediction
I’ve failed to provide the correct answer each time I’ve been asked to make one. I predict at least one side will come away with at least one point.

(That side would probably be Belgium, but this World Cup is determined to surprise)

Hilarious “Friends” spoof video ‘starring’ Messi, Ronaldo (video)

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Given the rivalry surrounding the two megawatt superstars plying their trade in Spain, you may be surprised to learn that Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are the best of friends.

[ MORE: Top USMNT-Mexico rivalry moments ]

At least that’s what this spoof video conveys, as the Real Madrid and Barcelona stars help each other navigate tax season and toilet troubles.

Brilliant stuff, from FootbOle:

Top USMNT-Mexico moments: Looking back ahead of Saturday

PASADENA, CA - JUNE 25:  Landon Donovan #10 of United States celebrates his goal with teammates Carlos Bocanegra #3 and Alejandro Bedoya #22  against Mexico during the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup Championship at the Rose Bowl on June 25, 2011 in Pasadena, California.  (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
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You could argue its the biggest match between the U.S. and Mexico outside of the 2002 World Cup’s Round of 16, and there would be few arguments against you.

The United States and Mexico will tangle on Saturday at the Rose Bowl, with the winner advancing to the 2017 Confederations Cup finals in Russia.

It’s only so often that these rivals match up in a “do or die” match. Sure World Cup qualifiers carry critical import, but they don’t always become the decisive moment in the qualifying cycle.

[ MORE: Spurs’ teen shining at center back for U.S. U-23s ]

Aside from the aforementioned World Cup match and the first match in the rivalry — see 1934 below — no other match has carried as much international weight as Saturday.

So with anticipation high, let’s dance backward in time to the Yanks’ best moments in the rivalry. And let’s also imagine what would have to happen to put Saturday in the mix.

(Of course, our apologies to Mexican fans. We aren’t including the times you slapped American soccer in the face).

2001, 2005, 2009, 2013 — “Dos a Cero” to the fourth power

There is no more celebrated score line in USMNT history than the 2-0 hurting it put on Mexico in four successive home World Cup qualifiers.

2002 — World Cup Round of 16

Goals from Brian McBride and Landon Donovan prodded an upset of the world’s then-No. 7 ranked nation, as the USMNT carried a feel of destiny through its best World Cup.

1934 — World Cup qualifier

Aldo Donnelli scored all four goals as the States won the first recorded match against Mexico, and it was a big one. The winner would go on to the 1934 tournament in Italy, while the loser would go on a tour of European friendlies. The States won, and wouldn’t win again until the qualifiers for the 1982 tournament.

2012 — First win at Azteca

It may’ve been a friendly, but Michael Orozco’s finish will go down as the Yanks’ first ever winner in the fortress of Mexico City.

1980 — World Cup qualifier

Though it meant little to the Yanks’ fate in the 1982 tournament — the U.S. finished last in a group with Mexico and Canada — it was the first win over El Tri in 46 years.