Feghouli 25' (pen)
Alexsandr Kerzhakov 74'
Lee Kuen-ho 68'
The early game was, as expected, more interesting than you'd have expected if you're a very casual fan. Just under a half-hour in, Jan Vertongen got whistled for pushing Sofiane Feghouli in the box trying to ruin what had been a perfect cross from Faouzi Ghoulam. Feghouli converted the penalty to give the Foxes the lead. Algeria almost immediately tried to park the bus, a strategy which worked for the next 45 minutes. Then Marouane Fellani, who'd just come in to the game five minutes prior, accepted a beautiful pass from Kevin de Bruyne and headed it in for the equalizer. Ten minutes later, Eden Hazard drove through the defense on a counter and fed half-time substitute Dries Mertens in the box, who blasted home the game-winner. Belgium may have already passed their toughest challenge on the way to the knockout rounds.
The afternoon game, which began the second flight through the group stage, was -- as the British like to say -- an absolute cracker of a game. Whereas Monday's 0-0 draw between Iran and Nigeria had exemplified everything soccer detractors hate about such affairs, Brazil and Mexico engaged in a tense and beautiful battle. It wasn't perfect; no scoreless draw is. But this match had the quality all great scoreless draws share: transcendent goaltending, in this case in the person of Mexican keeper Guillermo Ochoa. Ochoa brought himself to the attention of every club on the planet seeking goaltending help with a display that had Twitter rocking (although, to be fair, the save which raised the biggest ruckus would have been made by you, much less any elite keeper). Brazil put eight shots on net, and found the goal barred. For their part, while Mexico's attack wasn't as thrilling as the hosts, it wasn't absent either. Julio Cesar only faced three shots on goal, but Mexico had at least a dozen viable chances to score. Brilliant game, and a primer on what soccer fans mean when they say a scoreless draw can be entertaining.
In contrast, Russia-South Korea had all the hallmarks of a horrible scoreless draw. Lethargic offense with little creativity permeated the first hour. But at the 68th minute, Lee Kuen-ho unleased a shot from about 20m which Igor Akinfeev got his hands on. Problem: he didn't keep his hands on it, and it bounced over his shoulder into the net. Absolute howler. In the aftermath, Russia was forced to improvise. bringing on Aleksander Kerzhakov to replace Yuri Zhirkov. About five minutes later, that paid off when the sub plinked a rebound into the South Korean net to equalize. The last 15 minutes were more aggressive than the first hour had been, but neither eleven could breal through.
|MATCH||TIME (CT)||NETWORK||GROUP||TEAMS / SITE||ANNOUNCERS||ODDS|
Australia vs Netherlands
Estádio Beira-Rio, Porto Alegre
Spain vs Chile
Estádio do Maracanã, Rio de Janeiro
Cameroon vs Croatia
Arena Amazônia, Manaus
Game 19: Australia-Netherlands
I don't think there's a lot to say about this contest, which will almost certainly be a rout. Australia will likely be missing Ivan Franjic, but other than that both lineups should be the same as in their first games. The Dutch will punch their ticket to the knockour rounds (and, for all intents and purposes, top of the group). Callum Hamilton has SB Nation's match preview
Game 20: Spain-Chile
Nobody expected this, but this game -- in the wake of the previous match -- could decide everything in Group B but the knockout seedings. A win for Chile would send Spain crashing out of the tournament. Spain is probably going to stick with the same lineup that got smoked by the Dutch, although Vicente del Bosque has made noise suggesting the possibilty of widespread changes. Chile's going to stick with what works, especially given that Australia's main advantage against their lineup is less of a concern than it is with Spain: height. It's Callum Hamilton again with the full preview from SB Nation.
Game 18: Cameroon-Croatia
Croatia get striker Mario Mandžukic back from his red card-induced suspension, but it may now be too late as the Blazers now sit four points adrift of both Brazil and Mexico. As a result, Croatia must win today to have any control over their own destiny when they play Mexico next week. (The same is, of course, true of Cameroon.) And as Mandžukic returns, Luka Modric may be missing due to a foot injury. For Cameroon, the critical issue is that Samuel Eto'o looks like he may be unable to play (foot), so Pierre Webó may have to take over up front. Croatia is clearly the better side here, so look for them to turn Group B into a horse race with a victory. SB Nation's in-depth preview of the match comes courtesy of Jack Sargeant.
This could well be the most lopsided day of the tournament thus far, but it should still be worth watching; there should be plenty of thrilling goals to excite. This is your open thread, so join us for all the fun.