On Day 6
THERE WERE WORRYING moments for football hipsters everywhere when World Cup ‘dark horses’ Belgium were given a real test by Algeria in Group H. Jan Vertonghen was penalised for a clumsy foul in the 25th minute and Sofiane Feghouli made no mistake from the spot.
However, after much beard-stroking, second half goals from substitutes Marouane Fellaini and Dries Mertens were enough to give the Red Devils all three points and deny Algeria their first World Cup win since 1982.
The evening’s big game featured the clash of Brazil and Mexico in Group A. As TheScore.ie‘s man in Brazil Mikey Stafford reported, the expectation of the inhabitants of the world’s fifth largest country seemed to weigh too heavily on the hosts as they floundered to a scoreless draw in the Estadio Castelao.
The hero for Mexico was undoubtedly Guillermo Ochoa who pulled off a number of brilliant saves when called upon. The goalkeeper is out of contract at club level but with a few more performances like this he won’t be unemployed for long.
While Mexico and Brazil at least had some excitement, the first half of Russia and South Korea is 45 minutes that nobody is ever getting back.
However, just as the second half was shaping up to be something similar, Igor Akinfeev took his eyes off a Lee Keun-Ho speculative effort in the 68th minute to allow Korea take the lead in the Group H clash. That goal sparked the Russians into life and they were level five minutes later through Aleksandr Kerzhakov though neither side could manage a winner.
It’s fair to say Marouane Fellaini didn’t have the best season with Manchester United. Indeed, with Louis van Gaal’s arrival at Old Trafford, the 26-year old’s club future is far from certain. Most worryingly for Fellaini, his downturn in form edged him to the fringes of the Belgian World Cup squad and he had to settle for a place on the bench in their opening encounter with Algeria.
However, when called upon, the former Everton man delivered and his cushioned header – while facing the wrong way – proved to be the spark Marc Wilmots’ men needed to get back into the game and it wouldn’t be a huge surprise if he started ahead of Mousa Dembélé for Sunday’s clash with Russia.
For the first time this tournament, the loser wasn’t within 5,000 miles of Brazil, rather he was sitting in the RTÉ studios in Dublin 4, completely unaware the broadcaster had returned from their ad break.
But when Eamon Dunphy responded to Bill O’Herlihy’s question about Brazil poster boy Neymar with: “I thought he was fuckin’ dreadin’ it”, O’Herlihy’s reaction was enough to make him realise he’d done something very wrong indeed.
The pundit apologised to viewers at half-time for any offence caused.
Dries Mertens‘ 80th minute winner gets the shout for Tuesday’s best moment. The 27-Napoli attacker showed great composure to fire home on the counter-attack as Belgium became the sixth team to come from behind to win in this year’s tournament.
What have we got to look forward to today?
- Spain get a chance to bounce back from their opening game defeat as they face Chile in what is realistically a must-win clash for the defending champions in Group B.
- In the day’s opening game, the Netherlands look to virtually guarantee qualification with a win over the Socceroos. Australia must avoid defeat to have any chance of advancing from the group stage for just the second time in their history.
- With Mexico and Brazil’s stalemate yesterday, a draw is no use to either Cameroon or Croatia when they meet in Group A in Manaus at 11pm.