Today’s set of matches saw the last teams complete their second group stage matches. Following a 4-0 drubbing in their opening game, Portugal were aiming to put their hopes of progression back on track against the USA. All teams in Group H were also in action with Belgium playing Russia in what was expected to be a great match, whilst South Korea go up against an Algeria side who were unlucky in their defeat to Belgium.
USA 2-2 Portugal
Portugal rescued themselves from the brink after a stoppage time goal from Silvestre Varela kept them in the World Cup, whilst preventing the USA from progressing to the last 16. It was actually Portugal who made a flying a start, with a sliced clearance from Geoff Cameron falling to Manchester United winger Nani who slotted in after just 4 minutes. Both nations then had opportunities to score, with the USA’s swift counter attacks making them a threat, with Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley wasting chances. But Portugal came closer still to doubling their lead, with Nani hitting the post, and then Tim Howard making a spectacular save to deny the follow up from Eder from going in. In spite of Portugal being in front, their talismanic superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, who wasn’t 100% fit after a bout of tendonitis in his knee, was unable to have a large impact on the game bar a couple of good balls to team-mates. Michael Bradley should have equalised but Ricardo Costa made a brilliant clearance off the line however the goal finally came for the USA when Jermaine Jones shot a brilliant strike that gave Portuguese keeper Beto no chance. Dempsey, who was on loan to Premier League side Fulham towards the end of the year, then gave the USA the lead by controlling the ball with his midriff into the back of the net, to ruptures of ecstasy from the American supporters. However, the USA threw away a guaranteed place in the last 16 when their defence turned off to allow Ronaldo to send in a brilliant cross for Varela to plant a diving header past Tim Howard that keeps alive their World Cup hopes.
Belgium 1-0 Russia
Divock Origi scored two minutes from time to give Belgium an arguably undeserved victory in what was a largely lifeless game. The first half was a dire affair with Belgium being guilty on several occasions of trying to pass when in a good shooting position. Dries Mertens was looking the most dangerous player down the right wing and he came the closest to opening the scoring for Belgium but his shot was wide of goal. In fact in was Russia who were looking like the better side, and only good saves from Thibault Courtois prevented Viktor Fayzluin and then Maksim Kanunikov, from giving them the lead. Alexander Kokorin was then guilty of wasting the best chance of the match by that point when he headed wide on a plate from six yards out, as the first half finished goalless. The second half for the most part was almost a carbon copy of the first, with the game still lacking in quality. Russia were still on the front foot and had more chances, but Denis Glushakov was well off target with a shot from an angle whilst Andrey Eschenko shot wide. Belgium had their first shot on target, which highlights how dire this match was, when Kevin Mirallas of Everton hit the foot of the post with six minutes remaining. But Belgium grabbed all three points and consolidated their place in the last 16 with Origi’s goal after great work from Eden Hazard. Russia now have to win against Algeria to also make their way through, whilst Belgium need to improve if they are going to make it further into the tournament.
South Korea 2-4 Algeria
Algeria, who were unlucky to narrowly lose to Belgium in their first match, faced a South Korean side who started the day one point ahead in the table. From the start Algeria were vastly superior in quality, and should have got a penalty when Sofiane Feghouli was tripped by Kim Young-gwon before Yacine Brahimi shot over. Islam Slimani then had a couple of chances but headed wide at the far post before horribly screwing a shot from just six yards out. However, it was only a matter of time before Algeria would score, and they did so when Slimani ran onto a long ball and outpaced two defenders before planting the ball beyond the South Korean keeper. Two minutes later, Rafick Halliche thumped a header in from a corner from Abdelmoumene Djabou to double Algeria’s lead. South Korea were diabolical in the first half, and went in at the break even further behind when Slimani passed in the box for Djabou to score. A 3-0 half-time scoreline was not undeserved for Algeria, who had been far better than South Korea. However the team who was behind scored by virtue of a mistake from Madjid Bougherra, that allowed Song Heung-min to shoot through the legs of the Algerian keeper. South Korea rallied, and the game became much more even in quality. Ki Sung-yeung’s shot from a long way out was pushed over the bar by the keeper, before Brahimi all but settled the game with a goal after a one-two with Feghouli. South Korea battled away, and reduced the deficit when Lee Keun-ho played a ball across the box for Koo Ja-cheol to score. South Korea were then pressing for another goal but Algeria regrouped and held out for their first World Cup win since 1982 and puts them on the brink of qualifying for the last 16 for the very first time.