Day Six was not the most scintillating day of football that we’ve seen in this World Cup, although after only a week, the bar has been set pretty high. Today featured two games that likely would not have been close, had the managers of the favourites put out more dominant sides.
Algeria decided they would put 10 men behind the ball against Belgium, only making a serious break about 20 minutes in. Jan Vertonghen took out Sofiane Feghouli, the referee gave the penalty and Feghouli put it away. Then the Desert Foxes really started playing defensive. After the break, Marc Wilmots put on Dries Mertens — who probably should have started in the first place. Romelu Lukaku’s performance was a shadow of his Premier League form… so off he came in the 58th. Then Marouane Fellaini came on for Moussa Dembélé. Five minutes later, Wilmots’ substitutions paid off. Fellaini scored one of his trademark headers (where has that been all year?) and then Martens scored off Eden Hazard’s pass off the counter. It was a game that was exciting for 15 minutes… and that was enough for Belgium’s nervy World Cup return. Belgium 2-1 Algeria
Meanwhile, the Russia-South Korea clash was less than satisfying… exactly as expected. The South Koreans were quick, but the Russians played Fabio Capello’s cautious defensive tactics. The South Koreans scored because of a clanger by Igor Akinfeev, probably the goalkeeper gaffe of the tournament. It’s also interesting that Igor Denisov, Alan Dzagoev, and Aleksandr Kerzhakov — three of the better players on a dour Russian side — started on the bench, and that the goal came after their substitution. Either side will fancy their chances of progressing. Russia 1-1 South Korea