By Rob McDonald

BELGIUM

What We Know:
It’s hard not to know a lot about this Belgian generation. It was only last week The Times did a main story on the development of this team and what lessons England could take from it. That being said, golden generations only stay golden when they win and this is the first real test for this Belgian team.

What They Could Be:
This is the first major tournament Belgium has qualified for since 2002 and despite a solid and comfortable qualification, the real test begins now. Marc Wilmots will look to use the depth of quality he has available to change games but expect Belgium to stick the main XI that saw them to this point. Romelu Lukaku will lead the line, flanked by Kevin de Bruyne and Eden Hazard with a midfield trio of Steven Defour, Axel Witsel and Marouane Fellaini.

What They’ll Probably Be:
Sorry, this has been far too sensible so far. Belgium are just boring, though, aren’t they? We know they’ll be alright, really quite good in fact, but not experienced enough to challenge. It is a young team that goes out there and who will look to learn from the experience. For all the attacking quality, expect Thibaut Courtois to come out with the most credit.

The Player To Talk About With Phil Blundell:
The aforementioned Courtois, who is the best goalkeeper in the world™.

RUSSIA

What We Know:
Russia may have one eye on 2018, Fabio Capello’s swansong and when Russia will be hosts, but know they’re capable of a few surprises (particularly after being handed an easier group). Capello, who was derided in his time as England manager, will look to establish a core group who will play hard for each other and look to be solid and capitalise on the experience they have available to them.

What They Could Be:
The loss of Roman Shirokov is hardly ideal for a team that has been accused of being a bit blunt going forward but have Victor Faizulin who will look to take up the mantle of goal scoring midfielder. Alexander Kerhzakov, meanwhile, will look to be a lot more effective than he was in Euro 2012. Russia should qualify easily from the group but probably face a difficult second round tie…

What They’ll Probably Be:
So achieving the minimum aim of qualifying from their group should be attainable but probably not much more than that. One hope for Russia will be young midfielder Oleg Shatov gaining some experience.

The Player To Talk About With Phil Blundell:
Kerzhakov, because he’s dead, dead lovely to look at.

SOUTH KOREA

What We Know:
It’s been a long time since the halcyon days of 2002 but South Korea still have a talented squad and the ability to surprise.

What They Could Be:
Entertaining and counter-attacking with quick and technical players. It’s just the defensive part of that strategy that will likely give them problems with no stand out goalkeeper or defender.

What They’ll Probably Be:
A huge big advertisement for how good Son Heung-Min is, their best player who is coming off a good season with Bayer Leverkusen.

The Player To Talk About With Phil Blundell:
The aforementioned Son, who will probably be linked with moves away from Germany should he have a good tournament.

ALGERIA

What We Know:
For a team that didn’t score last time around, Algeria look a vaguely interesting attacking threat. Valencia’s Sofiane Feghouli will be the main outlet for the Algerians who will also look to Italian based duo Saphir Taider and Hassan Yebda to help out in midfield while Spurs’ young defensive midfielder Nabil Bentaleb will look to build on a good campaign.

What They Could Be:
A surprise. With youth and vitality in the squad and a strong, disciplined, coach in Vahid Halilihodzic Algeria will look to surprise the potentially complacent Belgium and Russian sides while they will fancy their chances against South Korea and look to qualify from the group stage for the first time in their history.

What They’ll Probably Be:
More entertaining than 2010 but not good enough to get out of the groups.

The Player To Talk About With Phil Blundell:
Sofiane Feghouli, the mostly useless Valencia winger.

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