World Cup Blog: Substitutes proving the difference for Belgium
07:00 23 June 2014
World Cup Group H: Belgium 1 Russia 0
Belgium have been tipped to go well at the World Cup, and though they have performed poorly so far they continue to eek out the wins.
They had to come from behind to beat Algeria 2-1 in the opening group match, and though they didn’t have to replicate the feat, they still did things the hard way in winning 1-0 against Fabio Capello’s Russia at the famous Maracana.
It may not have worked out from the start in any of Belgium’s opening two matches, but you can certainly say coach Marc Wilmots’ substitutes have worked a treat so far.
Marouane Fellaini, Dries Martins and Divock Origi all came on to good effect against Algeria and though two of the three started against Russia, it was the latter which came up trumps off the bench once again as they secured the three points to move them into the second round.
It was a game where they really struggled to get going, and though they have plenty of good individuals, they haven’t quite worked well as a team just yet.
There’s no standout player in the side and while they haven’t played well in their two games, Belgium have qualified for the latter stages and that’s all that matters.
It was Russia who looked the brighter of the two sides and they should have taken the lead in a poor opening half when Alexander Kokorin headed wide from six yards.
That was it in terms of chances, though Martins did look effective down the right hand side of the Belgium midfield.
Belgium were not testing Russia’s goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev enough, after the CSKA Moscow man endured a torrid first game against South Korea.
He was rarely troubled, but the same could be said for Thibaut Courtois up the other end.
The Chelsea youngster, who has picked up plenty of rave reviews during his two-year loan spell with Atletico Madrid, watched Russia substitute Andrey Yeshchenko fire one over after they found some time and space down the right.
But Origi was called off the bench once again, and he had the desired effect two minutes from time when firing Eden Hazard’s pull back past Akinfeev.
After that Belgium could have added to the advantage, but in the end one was enough.
The Belgians haven’t played anywhere near their best so far this tournament but have qualified from their only two games and you can’t ask for anything more.
There’s definitely room for improvement, and with the likes of Spain and England already out of the competition, they could well be a good bet to go deep into the tournament.