Bashful Belgians bury Russia at the death to qualify
Pre-tournament dark horses Belgium (20/1 chances) have qualified for the knockout phase of the World Cup, after seeing off Russia 1-0 in a dull encounter.
However, the Red Devils left it late once more, as teenager Divock Origi, who came on for the ineffective Romelu Lukaku, grabbed the winner with juts minutes to go until the final whistle.
While pundits and viewers will be saying “well, at least they got the job done”, Marc Wilmots’ side have a lot of work to do if they are progress far in Brazil, or even win the trophy.
Dries Mertens, who got the decisive goal in Belgium’s opening group match against Algeria, was rewarded with a starting berth this time around, in place of Nacer Chadli, and was the most impressive player on the pitch in the first half.
The Napoli winger looked lively throughout making runs and causing Russian defence trouble but, in akin to the style of most of the game, he just lacked the finishing touch.
Despite this, though, it was the Eastern Europeans who came closest to scoring, but Aleksandr Kokorin wasted a glorious opportunity after a headed wide a fantastic ball from the left wing from Denis Glushakov. Besides that chance, there were mainly efforts from out the area.
The second half began in equally dull style, with Russia seemingly happy to play out a draw. But, the entrance of Kevin Mirallas after 75 minutes for Mertens seemed to change the game.
Everton attacker Mirallas came agonisingly close to scoring, when he hit the post from a free-kick, and came near to netting again, after his deflected shot was sent over the goal, following a great run from Eden Hazard.
It was the Chelsea player, though, who did manage to create the magic moment for the Belgians, which resulted in Origi smashing a close-range effort past blundering keeper from the South Korea game Igor Akinfeev.
For Belgium and Wilmots, however, there is still much to consider, especially in concern of Lukaku, who has failed to live up to hype.
In Russia’s case, they have now played two and gained just one point, and it is very difficult to understand why boss Fabio Capello chose not to unleash exciting attacking players Alan Dzagoev and Aleksandr Kerzhakov until the very end.
Despite this, they can still qualify for the last 16 (odds of evens), if they can beat Algeria – who defeated South Korea 4-2 – in their final group game, and hope that the Asians don’t win and get a better goal difference.