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Clash for top spot in Group H

Sunday, June 22, 2014

MOGI DAS CRUZES, Brazil - With the second round just one victory away, Belgium is sweating on the fitness of captain and defender Vincent Kompany ahead of its World Cup game against Russia.

After wearing down Algeria's defence before coming from behind to win, Belgium could well face a similar battle of attrition against Russia at Rio's Maracana stadium tomorrow in Group H.

"We play dominant and we always try to win," Belgium coach Marc Wilmots said Friday, adding that if Russia falls back, it is only a sign that "teams respect Belgium now."

In defence, Wilmots has always relied on Kompany to keep the way to goal nearly impregnable. To lose the Manchester City defender, who is nursing a groin strain, would be a serious blow.

"All being well he will be back training with the rest of the squad on Saturday," Wilmots said.

At least Wilmots has a healthy cushion since Belgium leads the group with three points, ahead of Russia and South Korea with one. Algeria has zero points.

Victory on Sunday would see Belgium through and might also allow Wilmots to give Kompany a rest ahead of the knockout stage.

"We are in a good position. It is not the time to do crazy things," Wilmots said.

For Russia, coach Fabio Capello has to decide whether to stick with goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev, whose blunder by letting a soft shot slip through his hands allowed South Korea to draw 1-1 in their opening game.

If Russia comes out looking for victory, it might offer the time and space for playmaker Eden Hazard to make a real impact on the World Cup with the creative moves that have made him such a key player for Chelsea in the Premier league.

And it might set Belgium's top striker Romelu Lukaku free after a disappointing game against Algeria.

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