Tuesday, 2nd September 2014

Belgium edge Russia to reach last 16, Portugal draw with United States to keep hope alive


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The 19-year-old forward Divock Origi scored a late goal to help Belgium sink Russia 1-0 and reach the last 16 from Group H at the World Cup here on Sunday.

Beating Algeria 2-1 in their first match, Belgium qualify from the group with six points. Algeria are second with a 4-2 victory over South Korea, who tied Russia 1-1 in their first match.

Portugal escaped from a second Group G defeat thanks to a last gasp goal from substitue Silvestre Varela in Manaus.

Group G is still open for all four teams with Germany and the United States each having one and one draw. But Ghana and Portugal, both having one point, are still hopeful for qualifying if Germany and the US team do not draw in the next match.

Portugal took an early lead when Nani took advantage of a horribly sliced clearance by Geoff Cameron to beat US goalie Tim Howard.

Jermaine Jones levelled the score in the 64th minute and Clint Dempsey put the US ahead in the 81st minute.

The United States looked sure to go away with a win but five minutes into the injury time Ronaldo's cross found the head of Varela who powered it past Howard.

Orgini became Belgium's hero in a lackluster game. Belgium midfielder Eden Hazard ran down the left and broke the Russian defense, sliding the ball to Lille forward, who kept his cool and sidefooted into the roof of the net from close range.

Both Belgium and Russia made a few changes from their opening games. Thomas Vermaelen, Marouane Fellaini and Dries Mertens all started for Belgium, and Jan Vertonghen, Mousa Dembele and Nacer Chadli make way. For Russia, Alexey Kozlov and Maxim Kannunnikov started in place of Yury Zhirkov and Andrey Eschenko, who dropped to the bench.

Arsenal defender Vermaelen, who appeared to suffer an injury to his knee, was replaced by Tottenham defender Vertonghen in the 31st minute.

Belgium's first chance came in the 37th minute when De Bruyne played a lofted ball in behind the Russian defense, finding Mertens who cut inside and shot towards goal. However, Russia keeper Igor Akinfeev parried with firm hands away from danger.

Russia's best chance came on 44 minutes when Denis Glushakov galloped down the Russian left and curled a superb ball into the box. Forward Alexander Kokorin darted between the two Belgian central defenders and was left with a wonderful opportunity to open the scoring. He nodded wide, to the frustration of his teammates.

It's been a fairly even game, but Belgium are in the ascendancy thanks to some tricky wingplay.

In the 57th minute, Origi came off the bench to replace Romelu Lukaku. Lukaku spent last season on loan at Everton from Chelsea, made way for Origi for the second time this World Cup.

This substitution became the turning point of the game.

At their last World Cup encounter in 2002, Belgium won 3-2 in the group phase. Daniel Van Buyten was in the starting line-up for Belgium and Aleksandr Kerzhakov came on as a substitute for Russia. Current Belgium coach Marc Wilmots also played in that match and scored the third goal.

Algeria beat South Korea 4-2 with goals from Islam Slimani, Rafik Halliche, Abdelmoumene Djabou and Yacine Brahimi. South Korea, who finished the first half without any shot, dashed out with a strong second half, but the effort was still not enough to turn the match around.

Algeria, three points in hand, climbed to the second place with the three points in Group H ranking after getting the victory after the six-point Belgium.

South Korea had kept an undefeated record against African team in the previous World Cups, having beaten Togo 2-1 in 2006 and drawn 2-2 with Nigeria four years ago in South Africa. However, the record came to an end after Sunday.

Algeria, who was facing an Asian team for the first time in the World Cup, planned a five-defender formation, but their attack was much more threatening than the opponent.

After a long spell of possession, Les Fennecs caused trouble in the South Korean area in the fifth minute. Sofiane Feghouli was taken down in the box, but his teammate Yacine Brahimi's follow up went beyond the bar.

In the ninth minute, Algeria saw another chance through a corner kick. Islam Slimani found himself wide open but his header turned out wide off the left post.

South Korea started to counter attack after ten minutes, but Algeria still controlled the match. Aissa Mandi sent a great ball into the South Korean box in the 22nd minute. The ball found Slimani but the Sporting Lisbon striker didn't have the chance to finish his attempt.

The first goal came in the 26th minute, Slimani caught the long pass between the two South Korean defenders. He dashed into the box and tipped the ball over Jung Sungryong.

The Algerians didn't wait long for their second goal. Two minutes after the first goal, center back Rafik Halliche made use of a corner play, heading in the ball to set Algeria a 2-0 lead.

South Korea tried hard to fight back, but the counterattack of Algeria resulted in goal again. In the 38th minute, Slimani caught another long pass, and sent the ball to Abdelmoumene Djabou, who was undefended. Djabou seized the chance, netting the cross to make it 3-0 for Algeria.

South Korea opened the second half with a 50-minute goal. Striker Son Heungmin picked up a pass, broke the defense and powered a shot through Adi M'Bolhi's legs to take back one goal for South Korea.

The Asian team was inspired by the goal, making consecutive attacking efforts, and the Algeria defending line was under pressure.

After refusing several high-quality shots from South Korea, Algeria finished another counter attack with a goal. In the 62nd minute, Brahimi and his teammates completed a break through the South Korean defense. Brahimi's easy shot went past Jung Sungryong, and Algeria extend the lead to 4-1, becoming the first African team to score four or more goals in one match.

South Korea refused to give up. Koo Jacheol made a strong finish after a string of passes and cut the gap to two goals again in the 72nd minute.

South Korea kept the aggressive pressing, but they were unable to score again. RIO DE JANEIRO, June 22 (Xinhua)


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