Waffling play

The last group to play had Algeria playing Russia and South Korea facing Belgium.  Belgium was already guaranteed to advance, and could only not win the group with both Algeria and South Korea winning.  But the other position was wide open, with all three teams having a chance (though the Koreans were a very long shot).

Not having any real feel for things, I opted for the Belgian game, hoping for an upset.

And the South Koreans came out as a desperate side, playing hard, possessing the ball and dominating the game for more than twenty minutes at the outset.  They weren't getting  a lot of great chances, but they were keeping the Belgians from having any chances.

The Belgians' first chance came in the twenty-fourth minute, but Mertens managed to put the ball over the net from point-blank range.

Five minutes later, the Koreans had several very good chances, but were unable to capitalize.  The first came off a long shot by Ki, which the goalie did well just to get a hand on it to deflect it out of play.  On the resulting corner, the ball ping-ponged around a bit in the box and the Koreans were finally able to head it towards the goal.  But the forward was unable to get enough on it to put it past the goalkeeper.

Mertens got another shot a minute later, but was called offsides (and his shot went over the net anyway).

The complexion of the game changed significantly right as normal time expired for the half, as Defour got a straight red for a dangerous challenge where he went spikes-first into a Korean player, missing the ball by a lot.

Stoppage time went by very quickly, without anything interesting happening.  But it certainly looked likely that the Koreans would win, at that point, and even that they might be able to win by enough to move on (helped by the Russians being ahead in the other game, at that point).

But that wasn't the way it played out at all.  In fact, the Belgians actually played better, the rest of the way.  They held the Koreans to only a couple of chances, and finally scored, themselves, in the 77th minute.  Origi got a pretty good shot off from the top of the box, and the rebound went straight to Vertonghen, who calmly slotted it home without any defenders close enough to challenge him.

That goal basically took all the wind out of the sails of the Koreans, and the game was essentially over, then.

So Belgium won the group cleanly, and Algeria took second spot, as they had managed to equalize against Russia.  That pits Belgium against the US, and put Algeria up against Germany.

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