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World Cup preview: Group H rundown

A quick look at the teams competing in Group H at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil

A look at the teams competing in Group H at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil:

WORLD CUP PREVIEW

GROUP H

ALGERIA

FIFA World ranking: 22.

Last World Cup: 2010.

Best World Cup finish: Group stage.

How qualified: Beat Burkina Faso in CAF playoff.

It's a fact: Author Albert Camus was a goalkeeper in school, which probably makes the University of Algiers the only college to have had a Nobel Prize-winning keeper.

The skinny: Algeria, which hasn't won a major trophy since capturing the African Cup of Nations in 1990, has had to fight for respect. South Africa marked the team's first appearance in a World Cup in 24 years and Algeria exited winless again after losing its final game to the U.S. on Landon Donovan's goal in stoppage time. This young, inexperienced team is playing with more flair behind Sporting Lisbon striker Islam Slimani but it still struggles on offense. Coach Vahid Halilhodzic loves to go to his bench, mixing and matching his lineup to take advantage of his opponent's weaknesses.

BELGIUM

FIFA World ranking: 11.

Last World Cup: 2002.

Best World Cup finish: Fourth place (1986).

How qualified: UEFA Group A winner.

It's a fact: Belgium will be the least-traveled team in the group stage, having to travel less than 1,400 miles back and forth to its three group-stage games. The U.S. is traveling nearly 9,000 miles.

The skinny: With 23-year-old Chelsea forward Eden Hazard up front. Manchester United's 26-year-old Marouane Fellaini in midfield, Manchester City's 28-year-old captain Vincent Kompany on defense and Atletico Madrid keeper Thibaut Courtois, 22, in goal, Belgium has a solid, experienced collection of young, big-name stars who have performed well in the hyper-competitive English Premier League. As a result, the World Cup won't intimidate them. And they've played well lately, shutting out Sweden and Tunisia in their last two warmups. One question mark is the fitness of 21-year-old striker Romelu Lukaku, who injured his ankle in last week's friendly with Tunisia.

RUSSIA

FIFA World ranking: 19.

Last World Cup: 2002.

Best World Cup finish: Group stage.

How qualified: UEFA Group F winner.

It's a fact: Only two of the 42 players called up in the last year compete for teams outside the Russian Premier League. Neither one made the World Cup roster.

The skinny: The Russian soccer federation has its eyes on 2018, when the country will host the World Cup. But five of the team's core players are older than 30 and probably won't be around then so they'll be trying to make a statement here. Former England Coach Fabio Capello took over on the sidelines two years ago after Russia's disastrous performance in the 2012 Euros and guided the team past Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal in World Cup qualifying, conceding just five goals in 10 games. This is Russia's second appearance in the World Cup since the breakup of the Soviet Union.

SOUTH KOREA

FIFA World ranking: 57.

Last World Cup: 2010.

Best World Cup finish: Fourth place (2002).

How qualified: AFC Group A runner-up.

It's a fact: This summer will mark South Korea's eighth consecutive appearance in the World Cup and ninth visit overall, most among Asian nations.

The skinny: In nine World Cups, South Korea has made it out of the group stage only twice but both those performances have come since 2002. The South Koreans have their work cut out for them if they hope to keep that momentum going in this group, where Belgium and Russia are the heavy favorites. But dangerousBayer Leverkusen striker Son Heung-Min gives Korea a potent scoring threat, and if the young team — just one player is older than 30 — plays well against Russia it could make things interesting.

SCHEDULE

June 17: Belgium vs. Algeria at Belo Horizonte; Russia vs. South Korea in Cuiaba

June 22: Belgium vs. Russia at Rio de Janeiro; South Korea vs. Algeria in Porto Alegre

June 26: South Korea vs. Belgium at Sao Paulo; Algeria vs. Russia at Curitiba

 

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