Russians show soft spot for Belgian

Sunday got off to a weird start, from my perspective.  The Belgium-Russia tilt was on ABC, instead of ESPN; I'd misprogrammed the DVR, so I missed the first thirty-ish minutes entirely.

It pretty quickly became clear that both defenses were better than the opposing offenses, and that it was going to come down to who had the defensive breakdown or lucky bounce.

Belgium did get one chance in the thirty-sixth, by going over the top on the right hand side, but the goalie stopped the shot.

One thing noted is that this World Cup has had far more scoring than the previous one; something like 50% more (it was 84-54 at one point, I don't have a more up-to-date comparison).  I think that's why there's been fewer draws (at one point, at least, there was a big difference there).  I wonder if any of that difference is due to the ball; the Jabulani ball in South Africa had much different characteristics in turbulent air than the ones before or since.

Anyway, getting back to the game, that was about it for the first half.

I was happy to see Origi coming in in the 56th minute, although was disappointed to see him take a big dive in the box a couple minutes after his entrance.

In the eightieth, Russia had a good chance, but shot the ball about three feet wide.  One of the defensemen had made a run into the middle, and got a good feed (he was open), but he just couldn't put it on net.

One thing that surprised me was that the Belgians were showing almost no creativity; Russia wasn't either, though the Russians were generally looking a bit better (not much, call that the damns of faint praise).

A few minutes after that Russian attempt, the Belgians got a free kick at the top of the box, and put it off the post and out.

A minute or two later, Origi had a very good possession, showing good ball-handling and strength, but couldn't put the shot on net.

But it was only a brief respite for the Russians, as Origi scored in the 88th minute.  Surprisingly, it didn't come from using his blazing speed to lead the rush.  He brought it most of the way down, on the left, then passed off to another forward right by him, and then found a soft spot in the box.  When the pass came back to him, he was open for a clinical finish (it was pretty awful defense by the Russians, though, not picking him up at all).

That pushed the Russians to desperation, and opened them up at the back.  The Belgians almost took advantage in the 92nd minute, but put the shot right into the goaltender.

But the game ended half a minute after that, so no harm done, on their part.

The loss leaves Belgium likely to win the group, and puts Russia behind the eight-ball, needing to beat Algeria in the final match.  We'll see if they can do it (sorry, OV, I'll be cheering for the Africans).

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