World Cup 2014: Belgium v Russia

BEL 1 – 0 RUS: In as tense, scrappy game at the Maracanã in Rio de Janeiro these two European teams failed to produce the spectacle the locals have become accustomed to in this famous cathedral of football. Belgium, who came into the tournament as many peoples “dark horses,” again looked like a bunch of very talented individuals who lacked the chemistry to gel together. If coach Marc Wilmots can find the right balance of individual flair, team work rate and tactical application then they could become a very dangerous opponent as despite not looking great they have managed to win both of their games so far to qualify from Group H. Russia approached the game in a very similar way to their first game against South Korea: organised, cautious and looking to make a late impact by using talent off the bench. The first half was even-steven with Belgium having much the better of the possession; however the best chance fell to Dynamo Moscow’s Russian striker Alexander Kokorin. The exciting young forward has been a shining light in an average Russian side so far in the tournament but he must finish the chances that come to him like this one – a header from six yards out. After the break neither side could wrestle the advantage and the game threatened to peter out into a dull stalemate. Russia brought on Dzagoev late on but he failed to have any impact in such a short space of time. It was another substitute who did make an impact. After again replacing the disappointing Romelu Lukaku like he did in the first game, pacy Lille forward Divock Origi came on and converted an Eden Hazard cross to smash and grab the winner with only two minutes left to play. It was cruel on Russia but I still fell Capello needed to be more adventurous and start Dzagoev and Kerzhakov from the start. Wilmots and his back room staff were in pure joy on the sidelines when the goal went in and despite his team’s current lack of cohesion he will hope the confidence from these wins will drive his team on to progress through the knockout stages and deeper into the tournament. Russia now face Algeria in their final game and they will hope Belgium do them a favour against South Korea so they have the chance to sneak out of the group.

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