Belgium has to get Lukaku more involved

Ghana and Portugal are both facing a must-win situation on Thursday at the World Cup, which means Cristiano Ronaldo is firmly in the spotlight more than ever.

The United States and Germany will face each other Thursday in their last Group G match of the 2014 FIFA World Cup. The winner of the game will win the group and face the runner-up in Group H.

The other Group G fixture is just as, if not, more important. Ghana has a decent opportunity to overtake second place, but they have to beat Portugal and hope that the USA can lose to the Germans. Depending on the margin of victories, The Black Stars could pip the U.S. for a spot in the knockout stage.

Group H has just as much on the line. Leaders Belgium close out against South Korea, with the Red Devils needing just a point to take first place. Russia and Algeria play for the chance to join the Belgians in the next round.

Here are four keys to Day 15.

Thursday programming alert: Watch Portugal vs. Ghana (at 11:30 am ET) and South Korea vs. Belgium (at 3:45 pm ET) live on all four main Sportsnet channels. | TV schedule

Ghana must improve set piece defending

Had it not been for set pieces in both of Ghana’s previous matches, they could be sitting pretty with six points entering their last game. However, that’s obviously not the case and now they have some work to do in order to progress to the Round of 16.

The Black Stars have been woeful at defending corners and indirect free kicks. John Brooks’ winner or the U.S. was a result of poor marking on a corner. Germany’s equalizer was scored thanks to no one covering Miroslav Klose. Even if Benedikt Howedes was able to get his head to the ball off the initial cross, a Ghanaian defender has to complete the clearance.

That will be the biggest key for Ghana. They have speed, technique and creativity in attack. Against a susceptible Portuguese defence, that won’t be an issue. It’s their defending that has to be tweaked.

USA defence can’t repeat Portugal disaster

Barring an unthinkable collapse, Germany should move on to the next round and they’re heavily favoured to defeat the United States and win Group G. The Americans are obviously determined to upset the odds, as they’ve done throughout the tournament.

However, the defending has to be close to perfect. When Silvestre Varela scored the dramatic equalizer versus the U.S., there were tons of mistakes committed by most of the players before and during that play.

Michael Bradley turned over the ball, but it got worse from there. Every player except for Matt Besler was out of position, and once the cross from Cristiano Ronaldo was launched into the box, everyone was watching the ball. That allowed Varela to easily score Portugal’s second goal.

The Portuguese delivered a below average performance. Germany is far stronger up front with their interchanging front three in Thomas Müller, Mario Gotze, and Mesut Ozil. The U.S. defence has to be positionally aware of the German attackers and make sure they watch both the runs of the players and the ball. If they don’t, it could lead to a potential elimination.

Belgium must get Romelu Lukaku involved

Assuming Romelu Lukaku starts for Belgium, he has to be given more service. Lukaku has been noticeably isolated in both of his appearances at the World Cup and has been substituted early as a result.

Either manager Marc Wilmots has to move one of his creative midfielders as a second striker, or he has to start someone beside Lukaku. The odds of the latter happening are low, so it’s up to the likes of Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne to somehow link up with their striker.

Belgium is lucky that their substitutes have been able to score their goals, because their starters haven’t been able to get the job done. That has to change and it starts with Lukaku improving upon his 35 touches and one shot thus far.

Algeria have to utilize its speed

Russia’s midfield has been noticeably slow in the World Cup, while Algeria has shown how dangerous they can be on the counter attack. That is how the Fennec Foxes can qualify.

Even the Russian backline was exposed versus Belgium. The fullbacks were at least a couple of seconds behind Dries Mertens and Eden Hazard whenever they attacked down the flanks. Surely someone like Sofiane Feghouli can do the same.

Algeria won’t have any worries in defence, so they can open up and not be too exposed whenever Russia win back possession.

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