Dark horses to win the World Cup Belgium barely squeeze by Algeria with their subs scoring both goals to give the Red Devils a narrow 2-1 lead.
Byline: Jorge Belon, Editor in Chief
BELO HRIZONTE– Belgium substitute midfielder Dries Mertens scores the goal that saves the Red Devils from an embarrassing draw in their first match at World Cup since 2002 on Tuesday.
Red Devils midfielder Eden Hazard was running up the left side of the field, when he saw Mertens running down the right. Hazard went a little more towards the middle and was getting closer to the penalty box. Attracting three Algerian defenders towards him and freeing up Mertens path to goal.
Hazard then gave fast crisp pass on the grass towards Mertens who was about to enter the penalty box, the midfielder then took two steps with the ball and then fired a shot into the roof of the net giving the Red Devils the 2-1 victory at the 80 minute, and igniting the Belgium fans at the Estádio Mineirão.
However, the match did not start so smooth for Belgium as the Algerian took the lead in the first half, from a penalty kick. France native Sofiane Feghouli stepped up to take the penalty and with cool calm look to his face, he buried the ball into the back of the net, giving The Dessert Warriors a 1-0 lead at the 24 minute.
The first half would belong to the Algerians, as they did not thing but frustrate the Red Devils attack. However, in the second half that would all change, when midfielders Marouane Fellaini and Mertens entered the match at the 65 minute and in the halftime break.
With the injection of the two creative midfielders in the game, the defense of Algeria began to break down, and Belgium lethal offense began to come alive.
“The game was too slow in the first half,” Belgium’s Coach Marc Wilmots told FIFA.com after the game. “We just weren’t able to find a way past a team that refused to play football. The substitutions I made injected a bit of pace, which changed the game after the break.”
Fellaini would be the first one to score in the match, at the 70 minute Belgium midfielder Kevin De Bruyne delivered an accurate cross from the left hand side of the field, to Fellaini who was smack in the middle of the penalty box.
The 6’4 midfielder the headed the ball into the back of the net tying the game at one goal a piece. The Manchester United midfielder ran towards his teammate as the game was tied up and the Red Devils had the momentum.
” I’m really happy, both for myself and for the team,” Fellaini told FIFA.com. “Scoring at a World Cup was a great moment for me and I immediately thought about my family, who always supported me through the years no matter what. Everything they did for me led to that moment.”
Belgium kept on attacking and got closer and closer of completing their comeback, until ten minutes later Mertens send a rocket into the roof of the net and left Algeria with a broken heart knowing that they were so close of pulling out the biggest upset in their history.
“I’m left with the disappointing feeling of having come close to achieving something great,” Algeria’s Coach Vahid Halihodzic told FIFA.com after the game. “We suffered a lot in the second half, allowing Belgium to impose themselves physically. The different level of experience was a key factor towards the end. The match came down to little things, really, as well as the talent of our opponents.”
Algeria will need to rebound against South Korea on Sunday, June 22 at the Estadio Beira. As for Belgium they will have the opportunity to clinch their round of 16 birth with a victory against Russia on Sunday as well, but the match will be played at the Maracanã – Estádio Jornalista Mário Filho.
The highlights to this match can be seen on this link http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=intl:1888677, video provided by ESPN FC.