by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (June 22nd 2014)
Substitute Divock Origi spared the blushes of Marc Wilmotsʼ touted Belgium. For fans at the Maracaña it was so dreary that Belgium and Russia were booed. Fabio Capello can point to a poor refereeing decision after 27 minutes. Denis Glushakov put Maksim Kanunnikov in on the left of the area. He was plainly brought down by Toby Alderweireld. Referee Felix Brych should have given a penalty, but wrongly waved play on.
Aleksandr Kokorin squeezed between Manchester Cityʼs Vincent Kompany and Spursʼ Jan Vertonghen (who had replaced Arsenalʼs Thomas Vermaellen) to meet Glushakovʼs cross, but headed wide. He had to do better. Russia rarely threatened again.
Belgium offered little in the first half except the odd bright moment provided by Dries Mertens, whose lovely turn embarrassed Sergei Ignashevich, but Romelu Lukaku abandoned the chase as Mertens crossed. Igor Akinfeev dealt with the danger, having promised that there would be no repetition of the error against South Korea.
With ten minutes. remaining Belgium sprang to life. Substitute Kevin Mirallas struck the post from a 20 yard free-kick with Akinfeev beaten. Andrey Eschenko was put through by Kokorin with ten minutes remaining. His shot from just inside the area went just wide of Thibaut Courtoisʼ right-hand post. It was the last serious threat that Capelloʼs team mounted.
Belgium had the more incisive attacks as Eden Hazard came into his own. Kevin de Bruyne broke forward before passing to Origi, who found Hazard on the left. Chelseaʼs midfielder cut into the area before pulling it back for Origi to give Akinfev no chance. In injury time Mirallas should have scored after an excellent move, but was foiled by Akinfeev.
It didnʼt matter as the win guarantees that Belgium will at least progress to the last 16. Russia must go back to the drawing board, knowing that nothing less than a win against Algeria in their final match will do.