Belgium barely contained a reinvigorated Russia for most of the match, yet struck with a blistering final spurt of class and opportunism to turn a bad situation into a wild celebration for coach Marc Wilmots in the 88th minute and hugs all around at the fulltime.
“It was not easy, but we never gave up,” Wilmots said.
After its dour 1-1 draw with South Korea, Russia produced the kind of sparkle and dominance that most had been expected more from Belgium in front of 73,819 increasingly restless fans at Maracana stadium.
|Belgium forward Divock Origi scores against Russia in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday. (AFP-Yonhap)|
With Belgian King Philippe looking on, substitute Kevin Mirallas hit a freekick against the post in 84th minute, setting off a late revival.
At first it looked like late moves from Eden Hazard would only camouflage a rather dismal performance.
But then the playmaker made a move into the area on the left and spotted Origi free in the center. A pinpoint pass from Hazard and cool right-foot finishing from the 19-year-old Origi gave Belgium more than it deserved.
Belgium didn’t play with any real authority for most of the game on a bright, sunny afternoon in Rio, confounding predictions that it should be one of the teams to watch at the World Cup.
Instead, it was Russia which piled on the pressure in the second half and was let down by its blunt finishing touch.
It gave goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois his 100th professional clean sheet at age 22.
Belgium moved to six points with the win.
“Now we will build a party, but then it is back to work as of tomorrow,” Wilmots said.
Portugal rescues 2-2 draw with U.S.
MANAUS, Brazil (AP) ― Cristiano Ronaldo set up Varela for a late equalizer on a hot and humid night in the jungle Sunday to give Portugal a 2-2 draw with the United States and hope for a spot in the second round of the World Cup.
Ronaldo, who has been playing despite a left knee injury, sent in a cross in the fifth minute of stoppage time and Varela scored with a diving header in the last seconds of the match.
Nani had scored first for Portugal, shooting past a sprawling Tim Howard in the fifth minute, but the Americans responded in the second half as Portugal seemed to wilt in the stifling heat.
|U.S. midfielder Jermaine Jones celebrates his goal against Portugal on Sunday. (AFP-Yonhap)|
Jermaine Jones made it 1-1 with a curling shot in the 64th minute after a cross from Graham Zusi made its way through the Portugal defense.
Clint Dempsey, playing with a broken nose, then put the Americans ahead in the 81st. The United States captain used his stomach to direct the ball into the net from a cross by Zusi.
The last-second draw denied the Americans a spot in the second round, but it kept Portugal alive in the tournament.
“Obviously we’re disappointed, but at the end of the day you’ve got to look at the positives, we got a point,” Dempsey said. “It’s going down to the last game and hopefully we get the job done.”
The United States now has four points in Group G, the same as Germany. Both Portugal and Ghana have one point. The Americans will face Germany on Thursday in Recife, while Portugal takes on Ghana at the same time in Brasilia.
“Now we have to go out and beat Germany, that’s what we have to do,” U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann said. “We have to play Germany, we have one less day to recover, we played in the Amazon, they played on a place with less travel.”