Hours before South Korea would face Algeria in their second group match, Belgium broke a lackluster stalemate against Russia to score in the 88th minute, winning 1-0 on Sunday in Rio de Janeiro to see it through to the Round of 16.
|Russia's goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev (2R) fails to stop a shot from an obscured Belgium's forward Divock Origi to score a goal during the Group H football match between Belgium and Russia at The Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on June 22, 2014, during the 2014 FIFA World Cup. (AFP-Yonhap)|
Star midfielder Eden Hazard slipped forward Divock Origi a quick assist right in front of the goal to score the lone goal of the match.
It was the two teams’ fifth World Cup faceoff, the most recent being Belgium’s 3-2 win in 2002. With six points, Belgium sits at the top of Group H standings, followed by Algeria with three and South Korea and Russia with one apiece.
Belgium’s Dries Martens, who scored the match-winning second goal against Algeria last week, led the action from the beginning, taking the first attempt in the fourth minute as Belgium hardly gave Russia a chance with the ball throughout the first half.
Russia’s Denis Glushakov made a clean cross from the left to Aleksandr Kokorin near the end of the first half, but the forward headed the ball wide.
Mertens then restarted action three minutes into the second half with a clean cross into the box for Romelu Lukaku, who was slow to react and was later substituted in the 57th minute.
Russia warmed up in the second half as possession evened out. A few minutes later, Russia midfielder Denis Glushakov tried to slice a volley over Belgian goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, but his shot went high.
Fifteen minutes in, Russia began to push its opponents into their own half, though few scoring opportunities came of it.
With just minutes before final whistle, Belgium’s Kevin Mirallas came close to scoring in the 84th minute with a free kick, which he fired past the wall toward the goal’s bottom left corner. Russian goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev was slow to react, and the ball crashed against the post.
Finally, Hazard slipped Origi a ball from the left in front of goal to win the game.
On June 26, Russia will face Algeria while Belgium faces South Korea for the final matches of Group H.
By Elaine Ramirez, Korea Herald correspondent (firstname.lastname@example.org)