GROUP H saw the final set of teams—Belgium, Algeria, Russia and South Korea—commenced their 2014 World Cup campaigns on Tuesday.
Belgium 2-1 Algeria
World Cup dark horses Belgium kicked-off their 2014 campaign with a 2-1 comeback win against Algeria.
Along with Germany, the Belgians boast one of the strongest playing rosters at the World Cup.
However, unlike their neighbours, this A-list squad is inexperienced—as the last major tournament de Rode Duivels’ contested was the 2002 World Cup.
Algeria, competing in their fourth World Cup, caused a shock in 2010 by claiming a point against England.
The Desert Warriors adopted a similar intense disciplinarian approach by parking the bus and frustrating Belgium.
It proved successful as midway through the first-half Jan Vertonghen brought down Sofiane Feghouli to give away a penalty. Feghouli dusted himself off to convert and in doing so scored the Africans’ first goal in a World Cup since 1986.
Belgium appeared to be lethargic and coach Marc Wilmots decided to gamble by making his third and final substitution by the 65th minute. All three introductions played their part in changing the game.
Marouane Fellaini and Dries Mertens scored two goals in the space of ten minutes to spare the Belgians’ blushes, with 19-year-old Divock Origi regularly stretching the Algerian defence.
It was a tougher assignment than anticipated but no doubt Wilmots will be happy his team dug in to secure the three points.
Russia 1-1 South Korea
Lee Keun-ho opened the scoring from long-range goal in the second half, embarrassing goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev in the process but the Russians scrambled an equaliser through substitute Aleksandr Kerzhakov.
“Most important for me was the reaction [after being 1-0 down]. We also twice had a chance to score a second goal. Kerzhakov did well, he’s a fantastic player. He always offers us a way to score goals.”—Russia’s Italian coach Fabio Capello
It was the second World Cup in a row that Capello has been disappointed by his goalkeeper in the first match—Rob Green conceded a soft equaliser when England took on USA in South Africa 2010.
GROUP A & B roundup: Can Brazil take another giant step towards the knockout rounds and can Spain rescue their World Cup hopes against Chile?