by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (June 26th 2014)
Despite Marc Wilmots resting key players such as Chelseaʼs and Hong Myung-boʼs team needing nothing less than a convincing win South Korea could not find a way past Wilmotsʼ team even though Belgium were reduced to ten men for more than a half. Australian referee Ben Williams punished Porto midfielder Steven Defourʼs studs up challenge on Kim Shin-wook with a deserved red card after 43 minutes.
Although South Korea had a man advantage for more than a half, they could not find a way past an impressive Thibaut Courtois. Tottenham Hotspurʼs Jan Vertonghen scored the only goal of the match after 76 minutes when he followed up substitute Divock Origi shot. Ulsan Hyundaiʼs goal-keeper Kim Seung-gyu parried Origiʼs shot and Vertonghen knocked in the rebound.
The referee came under pressure to award penalties. South Koreaʼs Koo Ja-cheol had a strong penalty claim against Tottenham Hotspurʼs Moussa Dembélé waved away by Williams. Seconds earlier Lee Chung-yong who plays for Bolton Wanderers claimed to have been impeded in the penalty area by Dembélé, but that wasnʼt given either. Replays suggested that the second claim at least had merit.
Before long Belgian appeals were turned away too. Manchester Unitedʼs Adnan Januzaj and Anderlechtʼs Zairean-born defender Anthony Vanden Borre exchanged passes before Vanden Borre cut into the area, but Kim Young-gwon who plays his football in China for Guangzhou Evergrande. Threw his body across Vanden Borreʼs path – not a penalty, but obstruction.
Nine minutes into the second half another contentious decision occurred as Belgium were denied a a free-kick on the edge of the area. Manchester United misfit Marouane Fellaini was found by Januzaj and surged forward. Hong Jeong-ho tripped Fellaini, but Williams waved play on.
Midway through the first half Fellaini flicked it on to Evertonʼs Kevin Mirallas. The Everton forwardʼs shot rebounded to Dries Mertens, but Napoliʼs winger blazed over from 8 yards out. Chelseaʼs Thibaut Courtois, who has spent the last three years on loan to La Liga Champions Atlético de Madrid tipped Sunderlandʼs Ki Sung-yeungʼs long range shot around the post – an excellent save.
Meanwhile, Vertonghenʼs long range shooting left much to be desired. Mertens had a go from 25 yards out, but failed to beat Kim Seung-gyu. A quick South Korean break down the right wing resulted in a cross-shot by Son catching Courtois out, but it hit the bar. With 13 minutes remaining Kim Seung-gyu spilled Origiʼs shot, palming out into the path of Vertonghen, who scored.
Replays showed that the Spurs defender was fractionally off-side. It didnʼt really matter as South Korea needed to win by enough to oust Algeria, who had held Russia to a 1-1 draw on goal difference, and that never looked likely. Belgium and Algeria advance to the last sixteen where they will play the USA and Germany respectively.