Belgium, Algeria take command in Group H
The Associated Press
PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil -- First half strikes by Islam Slimani and Rafik Halliche helped Algeria to beat South Korea 4-2 on Sunday and become the first African team to score four goals in a World Cup match.
Algeria led 3-0 at halftime, but withstood a stronger South Korean second half performance to claim its first World Cup win since 1982 and move into second place in Group H with one match left to play.
Defeat for South Korea means it must now beat already-qualified Belgium to stand a chance of progressing to the knockout stages. Belgium leads with six points, Algeria now has three, while Russia and the South Koreans have one apiece.
Slimani, one of three Algeria scorers who didn’t start in the opening 2-1 loss to Belgium, broke the deadlock in the 26th minute with a fine solo goal, running onto a through ball between two defenders and then touching it past Jung Sung-ryong.
Two minutes after the restart, defender Rafik Halliche powerfully headed in a corner after Jung came off his line but failed to make contact with the ball.
Algeria added a third goal in the 38th when Abdelmoumene Djabou side-footed home from close to the penalty spot after Slimani pulled the ball back for him.
South Korea didn’t manage a shot on target all half, and struggled to break down Algeria’s attacks.
However, it was far more positive after the break and pulled a goal back in the 48th minute when Son Heung-min shot through the legs of Rais Mbolhi.
Hopes of a remarkable comeback were soon extinguished, though, when swift passing by Slimani put Yacini Brahimi through on a counter attack to make it 4-1.
South Korea captain Koo Ja-cheol bundled the ball home on 72 minutes from close range, but Algeria’s defense held on to secure a historic victory.
Belgium 1, Russia 0
RIO DE JANEIRO -- Teenage forward Divock Origi turned a listless Belgian performance into a late 1-0 win over Russia on Sunday, enough to qualify for the next round of the World Cup with two straight victories.
Belgium barely contained a reinvigorated Russia for most of the match, yet struck with a blistering final spurt of class and opportunism to turn a bad situation into a wild celebration for coach Marc Wilmots in the 88th minute and hugs all around at the fulltime.
"It was not easy, but we never gave up," Wilmots said.
After its dour 1-1 draw with South Korea, Russia produced the kind of sparkle and dominance that most had been expected more from Belgium in front of 73,819 increasingly restless fans at Maracana stadium.
With Belgian King Philippe looking on, substitute Kevin Mirallas hit a freekick against the post in 84th minute, setting off a late revival. At first it looked like late moves from Eden Hazard would only camouflage a dismal performance.
But then the playmaker made a move into the area on the left and spotted Origi free in the center. A pinpoint pass from Hazard and cool right-foot finishing from the 19-year-old Origi gave Belgium more than it deserved.
Belgium didn’t play with any real authority for most of the game on a bright, sunny afternoon in Rio, confounding predictions that it should be one of the teams to watch at the World Cup.
Instead, it was Russia which piled on the pressure in the second half and was let down by its blunt finishing touch. It gave goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois his 100th professional clean sheet at age 22.
Belgium moved to six points with the win, five ahead of Russia and South Korea -- the Koreans were playing Algeria later Sunday.
"Now we will build a party, but then it is back to work as of tomorrow," Wilmots said.
Belgium was lucky to head into halftime with the score locked at 0-0.
It escaped a penalty in the 26th minute, when German referee waved on play after defender Toby Alderweireld was late with a challenge on Maksim Kanunnikov in the area. And, with Russia surging relentlessly, striker Alexander Kokorin found himself unmarked from nine yards (meters) with an open header on goal, but he put it just wide.
While most critics had been expecting a defensive Russia against Belgium, coach Fabio Capello decided otherwise and the addition of 22-year-old Maksim Kanunnikov gave some zip to the team that it so badly lacked against South Korea.
Wilmots promoted his two substitute goal scorers from the 2-1 win over Algeria to the starting lineup and while Dries Mertens thrived on the right wing, Marouane Fellaini was sloppy and ineffectual in the center of midfield.
Once Russia’s central defense of Sergey Ignashevich and Vasily Berezutskiy worked out how to control the Belgian passing combinations, momentum changed. After the early massive cheers for Belgium from the crowd, shouts of "Ro-ssi-ya, Ro-ssi-ya," took over.
Even if Vincent Kompany had recovered from a groin strain to play a polished first half, the surprise call-up of defender Thomas Vermaelen to start the game totally backfired.
The Arsenal defender injured his knee in the warmup and lasted only 31 minutes before limping off.
Nigeria 1, Bosnia 0
CUIABA, Brazil -- Nigeria eliminated Bosnia-Herzegovina from World Cup contention with a 1-0 win over the tournament newcomers on Saturday, with Peter Odemwingie’s first-half goal getting the African champions closer to the knockout stage.
Odemwingie sealed Nigeria’s first victory at a World Cup since 1998 -- spanning 10 matches -- by finishing from close range in the 29th minute after one of a string of powerful runs by fellow striker Emmanuel Emenike.
Bosnia faded after a bright start, during which star striker Edin Dzeko had a goal contentiously disallowed for offside, and is still without a point in Group F following a 2-1 defeat to Argentina in its opener.
A draw would have given the Bosnians something to play for in its last group match, against Iran, but Dzeko had a shot tipped onto the post by goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama in the final few seconds, ending their hopes.
Nigeria needs a point against Argentina on Wednesday to be guaranteed a spot in the Round of 16 -- and a surprise win would secure top spot in the group.
With Africa’s five teams starting the World Cup with just one win from their first eight matches, the continent was able to enjoy a rare success in Brazil.
There had also been added motivation for Stephen Keshi’s team, which was seeking to boost the spirits of Nigerians back home in the wake of a suicide bombing attack at a World Cup viewing site in the northeast of their country. At least 14 people died in the blast.
Nigeria was too strong and experienced for the Bosnians, whose soft center in defense failed to deal with the power of Emenike in energy-sapping conditions in the western Brazilian city of Cuiaba.
And the recall of Odemwingie, who was impressive as a substitute in the 0-0 draw with Iran, gave Nigeria an extra goal threat -- demonstrated by his calm finish.
Emenike powered past the tame challenge of Bosnia defender Emir Spahic and charged down the right flank before crossing for Odemwingie, who shot first-time through the legs of goalkeeper Asmir Begovic -- his teammate at English club Stoke.
By that stage, Bosnia-Herzegovina should have been ahead, with Dzeko finding the net in the 21st only for the goal to be ruled out for offside. Replays appeared to show Dzeko was level with the last defender.
Otherwise, Dzeko’s finishing was off-key and with their star striker struggling, the Bosnians looked disheartened in the early stages of the second half.
Begovic kept his team in the game with saves from Michael Babatunde and Emenike before Bosnia-Herzegovina’s late rally created a good chance, Dzeko turning his marker in a crowded penalty area and side-footing a shot that was kept out by Enyeama.
Argentina 1, Iran 0
BELO HORIZONTE, Brazil -- Lionel Messi scored a superb goal in stoppage time to give Argentina a 1-0 victory over Iran on Saturday and secure his team’s place in the second round of the World Cup.
Iran had defended solidly throughout the game and also took the match to Argentina in the second half, creating several chances to win the Group F match and cause a tournament sensation.
But Iran was punished for those missed chances when Messi picked up the ball about 20 yards (meters) out and curled a shot into the left hand corner.
Germany 2, Ghana 2
FORTALEZA, Brazil --Miroslav Klose rescued a point for Germany, and equaled the World Cup scoring record in the process.
Germany was held to an entertaining 2-2 draw by Ghana on Saturday and needed Klose’s second-half equalizer to avoid another second-game letdown that has plagued the team in recent tournaments.
Klose now has 15 career World Cup goals, equaling the mark set by former Brazil star Ronaldo. He celebrated the goal with his trademark summersault.
"It was complete, but I can’t remember the last time I did it," Klose said. "Still, 15 goals in 20 matches, that’s not bad."
Just like in 2010, Germany won its opening game of the World Cup 4-0 but struggled in its second game. Four years ago, it was beaten 1-0 by Serbia, and the Germans were on the verge of losing again on Saturday. The draw was good news for the United States, however, as the Americans would advance from the group if they beats Portugal on Sunday.
Klose scored the equalizer in the 71st minute, less than two minutes after coming on as a substitute, when a corner by Toni Kroos was flicked to the far post by Benedikt Hoewedes and the striker slid in to knock the ball into the roof of the net. He celebrated with his trademark summersault.
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