Belgium rally past upset minded Algeria

Published Tuesday, June 17, 2014 2:46 PM by Patrick Nuss
Belgium rally past upset minded Algeria

Today left us to watch the up and coming super power, Belgium, take on the underdog, Algeria. Belgium, a side that features many players who star in the English Premier League, lined up in their typical 4-2-3-1, almost 4-3-3, with Hazard being the danger man on the left wing. Algeria, on the other hand, is a side that not many people know much about. To their credit, however, they came out in a 4-3-3, and showed that they were not in any way scared of the powerful Belgian side.

The game started inversely to how many imagined it would. Algeria was dominating Belgium! For the first 5 or 6 minutes, Algeria had a lot of the ball, and Belgium were finding it hard to even string more than 3 or 4 passes together. Was it the nerves?  A lot of pressure was put on this Belgian team prior to the World Cup.
                
After this opening section passed, however, Belgium began to see a lot more of the ball, as Algeria were happy to sit back and let them have the ball at midfield, but as soon as they would get into the final third, they were always met by a swarm of Algerians. This led to many uncharacteristic mistakes by the Belgians, who we repeatedly saw make sloppy passes going forward, have mistouches on the ball due to a lack of concentration, and have little movement off the ball… You could tell they were rattled.
                
All of a sudden, in the 25th minute, lightning struck. The Red Devils again lost possession, and the Algerians broke out. A superb cross from the left flank saw it miss the first forward, but the second runner, Feghouli, was dragged down at the back post with two hands by the Tottenham defender, Jan Vertonghen. Whether he made the most of the situation or not, the referee’s decision was clear- PENALTY. And up stepped Feghouli, the Valencia man, to take the kick. Ever so calmly he sent Courtois the wrong way and slotted it home, just to the right of the center of the goal. 1-0 to the Algerians!
                
With the upsets we had already seen in the tournament, Costa Rica defeating Uruguay and Holland dismantling the world champions, one had to wonder whether this could be another.
                
The rest of the half was rather boring, with Belgium still visibly shaken, and Algeria happy to sit back and park the bus. Credit to Nabil Bentaleb, 19 year old starlet for Tottenham, who, with the rest of his midfield, did a splendid job in cutting off the Belgian attack. Belgium seemed to lack a creative spark, something uncharacteristic of the side, with the likes of Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku, and Moussa Dembele.
                
The second half started better for the Belgians. Dembele took control of the center of the pitch and led Belgium into the attack. The Red Devils moved with a lot more purpose, and seemed that a little swagger had come back into Hazard, who had been shut down for the entirety of the first half. Even with the better play, though, they still could not find a goal, with a Witsel header skying over the bar in the 50th minute.
                
Then came the subs. Lukaku was off, as he did not get a shot on goal all day, and only completed 7 passes, replaced by the 19 year old Origi. As well as that, Mertens and Fellaini also came on to put in minutes. All three of these changes signaled the Belgian intent: They were going after this game.
                
Origi almost got off with a bang. After flicking a pass with his head past a centerback, he raced past got in on goal. He fired a shot low and hard, but it was met well by the keeper. What a moment that would have been for the youngster!
                
Fellaini did not disappoint either. In the 70th minute, a brilliant de Bruyne cross, from a similar position that led to the first half penalty, found the head of the very physical Fellaini, who outmuscled his marker and flicked a header in off the crossbar. Tie game!
                
Ten minutes after that was when the turnaround was complete. Algeria lost the ball in the Belgian half, and Belgium did not have to think twice. The ball got slipped to Eden Hazard, who sprinted about 60 yards upfield, before sliding a brilliant ball into Mertens, on the right side. Left 1 v 1 with the keeper, he elected for power, and cannoned his shot past the helpless keeper, 2-1, and another great sub by the manager. The Belgians were finally showing why so many people have been talking them up.
                
The rest of the game showed Belgium doing what they had done for the majority of the game, keeping possession. Algeria struggled to get the ball, and with that, the game was over, a close call for Belgium, who had been a sort of favorite to win the Cup.
                
The game showed us that Belgium may have a weakness, and that is, when they are not entirely focused, they are very mediocre. For Algeria, more performances like that, and they may find themselves in contention for the coveted second seed in their relatively easy group, also consisting of Russia and South Korea. What a World Cup this is shaping up to be.