Today’s group of matches saw the last four teams begin their World Cup campaigns, featuring a Belgian side with a wealth of experience from the Premier League, and the second appearance of host nation Brazil against the other winner in the first Group A matches, Mexico.
Brazil 0-0 Mexico
Brazil came into this match full of confidence after their controversial 2-1 victory over Croatia. Mexico meanwhile were at the receiving end of controversy after having 2 goals disallowed despite their victory over Cameroon. Luckily, this was a match not dominated by controversy, but rather a stunning performance from the Mexican keeper Guillermo Ochoa. This was not a typical 0-0 game, with exciting end-to-end moments and shots aplenty for both teams, in particular for the host nation. Several times Brazil thought they had scored, but time and time again Ochoa made a world-class save to deny fantastic shots from the likes of Neymar and Paulinho. Mexico though were not completely outdone in the shooting department and several long range shots either scraped over or were saved by Brazilian keeper Julio Cesar. But for the second match in succession, Brazil were disappointing, both in the passing and scoring departments. After a ‘lucky’ win against Croatia, this result somehow means that a below-par Brazil, and Mexico too for that matter, only need a point in order to progress to the last 16.
Russia 1-1 South Korea
Now this match will not live long in the memories of football fans, the first half was a dreadful affair, with South Korea edging it but neither team having many opportunities. It was little wonder that that the reporter of this piece fell asleep at half time due to the late time it was on! So in this report only the facts can be said. South Korea took the lead in the 68th minute through a long range shot by Lee Keun-ho that squirmed through the fingers of the Russian keeper Akinfeev, so basically a goalkeeping error. But Russia kept going and equalised when Aleksandr Kerzhakov scored after the South Korean keeper had parried a shot. A draw was probably a fair result given how dreadful the first half was, and it means that both are off the mark in Group H.
Belgium 2-1 Algeria
With little more than 20 minutes left, there was a shock result developing, with Algeria leading much-fancied Belgium thanks to their first goal in the World Cup finals for 28 years through Sofiane Feghouli, whose penalty goal was the result of Jan Vertonghen’s stupid pull on the same player. Belgium, with a squad full of highly-rated premier league players such as Eden Hazard, Vincent Kompany and Romelu Lukaku, looked sluggish in the first half and for the majority of the second, whilst Algeria were doing a good job at keeping the highly-rated Belgium squad at bay. Then the Belgian manager made a brilliant tactical switch, with Manchester United’s Marouane Fellaini coming on, and he had an immediate impact on the match. He scored almost directly after coming on with a looping header from a set piece. And with ten minutes to go the comeback was complete; Dries Mertens scored at the end of a swift Belgian counter-attack to break Algerian hearts. Belgium may have got the three points but they will need to be better in the future, with tougher opposition to come.