Sunday, June 22, 2014

Belgium 1 - Russia 0

Photo by Clive Rose
The two favorites to advance from Group H, Russia and Belgium, faced off in Rio de Janeiro today. Oleg Shatov did plenty of dribbling work at the top of the Belgian box before passing across the eighteen to Victor Fayzulin. Fayzulin fired low and to the right of Belgium goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, but the shot was well saved. Going the other way, Belgian midfielder Kevin de Bruyne made a fantastic slaloming run to beat two defenders and drag two more away from the run of Dries Mertens (pictured, red), but Mertens foolishly tried to force and extra pass in the box rather than have a go himself, allowing Russia to clear the danger. Russian left back Dmitry Kombarov (pictured, white) was having all sorts of trouble keeping tabs on Mertens running up his side of the defense, but Belgium were unable to make use of this dominance to produce a goal. With only a couple minutes left to play in the half, Aleksandr Kokorin missed a simple finish from eight yards out as ??'s perfect cross found his head between the two Belgian centerbacks. Kokorin nodded the ball wide off frame with Courtois at his mercy. The teams left the field knotted at zero goals apiece.

It took about thirty minutes for something to happen in the second half, which was quite dreadful to watch during that time. Then, the match livened up. Russian fullback Andrey Eshchenko was rewarded for his daring run upfield, but he sprayed a shot wide of the far post. Kevin Mirallas rolled a free kick to the Russian wall and actually caught Russia goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev leaning the wrong way, but his shot softly caromed off the post. Eden Hazard finally came alive in the Belgian midfield with five minutes to go in the match. He began with a shot on goal that was deflected out for a corner kick. Then, he initiated the decisive moment of the match, carving through the right side of Russia's defense before dropping the ball off to Divock Origi. Origi finished with his first touch to give Belgium the lead late. Hazard nearly had a second assist, but Mirallas could only muster a weak shot with which Akinfeev dealt easily. Belgium hang on and win 1-0 to secure a berth in the Round of Sixteen.

Belgium IN 6 pts +2
South Korea 1 pts 0
Russia 1 pts -1
Algeria 0 pts -1

Divock Origi 88

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