Belgium seemed unable to attack or even retain possession for 80 minutes, although Russia's offense rarely came close to cracking the Belgian defense either. But in the final 10 minutes Belgium finally forced the run of play to the Russian end, and finally hit paydirt when Eden Hazard, from the end line, passed back out into the front for a perfectly-placed one-timer off the foot of substitute Divock Origi. The game was a balanced affair, with Belgium ending up with 51% of possession, but again much of this was due to neither team being able to mount prolonged attacks. With the win, Belgium advanced and took a stranglehold on the group.
Twenty-five minutes in, Algeria fired both barrels. First, Carl Medjani lofted a long pass into the box which Islam Slimani took, danced between two defenders, and buried in the net. Then, less than two minutes later, Abdelmoumene Djabou placed a corner right in front of net which Rafik Halliche headed home. Ten minutes later, Slimani tapped a pass to a wide-open Djabou to make it 3-0. When halftime arrived, Algeria had 12 shots, 5 on goal; South Korea hadn't managed a single attack. The Koreans rectified that a few minutes into the second half when Ki Sung-yeung hit Son Heung-min with a long pass in the box, but Algeria got it back on a give-and-go between Yacine Brahimi and Sofiane Feghouli; Brahimi had last go at the corner of the goalie box and slipped it in for a 4-1 lead. About five minutes later, after some pinball in the box, Koo Ja-choel helped out South Korea's goal differential, but it was all over. The Koreans furiously attacked for the final twenty but gained no more ground.
Belgium are through, and win the group with a win or draw again South Korea, or if Algeria fails to beat Russia. Algeria is through with a win over Russia, or with a draw so long as South Korea doesn't blow out Belgium somehow. Should Russia beat Algeria, they'd go through as long as South Korea doesn't beat Belgium by one goal more than Russia beats Algeria by, and you can now deduce South Korea's infinitesmal chances of advancing.
Group H standings after two matches: Belgium 6 (+2), Algeria 3 (+1), Russia 1 (-1), South Korea 1 (-2)
Geoff Cameron was almost the goat. A horribly muffed clearance left the ball to an undefended Nani right in the middle of the box, who punched it over a defenseless Tim Howard to give Portugal the early lead. For the next 90 minutes, the Americans had the run of play, save for a Portuguese flurry surrounding halftime. But it took all of an hour for the equalizer, a Jermaine Jones rocket from 20 yards that Beto had no chance at. Not long before that, Michael Bradley had a chance with Beto sprawled on the ground outside his box, but kneed the ball straight ahead... only to have it cleared off the line by Ricardo Costa. Absent that, the USA would have the lead.
About a quarter-hour later, they had it. Jermaine Jones and DeAndre Yedlin led a rush down the right side, and Yedlin crossed into the box. Bradley and Graham Zusi fed Clint Dempsey, and the party was on. Time ticked down, advancement was imminent. And then with 39 second left in the game, this happened.
Don't try and defend Bradley on that last blunder. Just don't. pic.twitter.com/eb3IuyMup4— Jon Morse (@jonfmorse) June 23, 2014
Two seconds later, Nani had the ball in wide open space. Ronaldo streaked free down the right side, took the pass and crossed into the box. And Silvestre Varela slammed it past Tim Howard. It was the final act of the game, as the whistle blew immediately after the kickoff.
With the draw, the USA is still in good shape to advance. Both the USA and Germany advance if they draw one another. If either team wins, then the loser still goes through if Ghana and Portugal draw. All other scenarios depend on goal difference, and things get dicey for the USA and Ghana. Germany is really safe unless they get blown out or Ghana destroys Portugal. But the USA cannot really afford to lose Thursday, even though there are perfectly reasonable scenarios which see them through even with a loss.
Group G standings after two matches: Germany 4 (+4), USA 4 (+1), Ghana 1 (-1), Portugal 1 (-4)
|MATCH||TIME (CT)||NETWORK||GROUP||TEAMS / SITE||ANNOUNCERS||ODDS|
Netherlands vs Chile
Arena de São Paulo, São Paulo
Australia vs Spain
Arena da Baixada, Curitiba
Croatia vs Mexico
Arena Pernambuco, Recife
Cameroon vs Brazil
Estádio Nacional Mané Garrincha, Brasília
Game 36: Netherlands-Chile
Both teams are already through, and are just fighting over who has to play Brazil. (Of course, it's possible the winner might have to play Brazil, but unfortunately they won't know that until it's too late.) Bruno Martins Indi will likely miss the match with post-concussion symptoms, while Robin van Persie definitely will with two yellow cards. Louis van Gaal will likely shift to a 4-3-3 to compensate. Mauricio Isla is questionable for Chile. Expect goals in this one, says Jack Sargent in SB Nation's match preview.
Game 35: Australia-Spain
Nothing but pride is at stake in this one, and it's almost certain Spain will throw a substandard lineup on the pitch. Not that their best lineup accomplished anything, mind you. Australia will be without Tim Cahill (yellow cards), and it wouldn't be a surprise for them to get some reserves into the lineup. Not that it matters; almost all eyes will be on the other match in the early group. SB Nation's preview comes from Callum Hamilton.
Game 34: Croatia-Mexico
Winner goes through; Mexico goes through in the event of a draw. Both teams will be going for it regardless, and there shouldn't be any changes to the lineups they trotted out last week. SB Nation's Jack Sargeant has the scoop.
Game 33: Cameroon-Brazil
Brazil doesn't absolutely require a point to advance, but a loss would leave them open to finishing third on goal differential. Against what's been a woeful Cameroon side, managing at least a draw shouldn't be a challenge. Brazil have all sorts of selection issues for this one, with Hulk still suffering a muscle strain and Fred and Paulinho having been unimpressive in the two opening matches. For Cameroon, Alex Song is sitting out on a red card, and Benoit Assou-Ekotto's probably not playing after attacking his own teammate, Ben Moukandjo, during Cameroon's loss to Croatia. Samuel Eto'o may also still be sidelined with an injury. At this writing, we don't have the SB Nation preview for this one yet.
We've reached the part of the tournament where you have choices to make, as both games in each group take place simultaneously to (help) prevent shenanigans. In the early games, neither one matters a great deal; Netherlands-Chile resolves the group winner, though, so that'll be where more eyeballs sit. In the afternoon, Brazil is relegated to the B game, as Croatia-Mexico will not only be a better game, but will have more impact on who advances. Whichever games you choose to watch, join us here to talk about them; this is your open thread.