FIFA World Cup 2014 – Monday 23 June 2014
Sunday is traditionally a day of rest and it seemed that Belgium and Russia took that literally in the opening game yesterday. It was overall a game of poor quality, although Belgium started and ended it well. In between it was nothing much to write home about. Dries Mertens was dangerous out wide for Belgium in the opening spell of the first-half, whilst Eden Hazard rekindled the game in the last ten minutes of the second-half as the Russians tired badly. The Chelsea midfielder, Hazard, provided the winner as his cut-back ball allowed substitute Divock Origi to slam home with just two minutes remaining. Belgium through and the 2018 World Cup hosts, Russia, on the brink of exit.
The concept of ‘rest’ continued into game two of the day as South Korea might have well been sat in deckchairs on the Copacabana beach for the first-half against Algeria. Their defensive display by Korea was so inept that they found themselves 3-0 down at half-time (did someone say betting scandal?), although credit to Algeria as they capitalised on their opponents generosity. In the second-half, Korea briefly rallied as they pulled a goal back, but any chance of a comeback was killed off by a fourth Algerian goal, although Korea scored a scored to add some respectability to the score-line.
So to the last of the actions yesterday between the USA and Portugal. Nani had put Portugal ahead early in the first-half and they held the advantage at the break. The goal had come from a howler from Geoff Cameron and looked like it was taken straight out of the South Korean defence training manual used in the previous game. However, the game was all about the second-half. Jones showed real class to curl in the equaliser for USA and when Dempsey headed home with nine minutes remaining, it was Portugal who were heading home. But there was drama to come, as with seconds remaining, Michael Bradley lost possession to Ronaldo and the captain’s cross was headed in by Varela. This group is still up for grabs.
The last of the group games starts later today and hopefully more drama and shocks await…