Belgium 1, Russia 0
RIO DE JANEIRO — Twice now, Belgium has relied on a late revival boosted by stamina and its bench to turn desperate situations around at the World Cup. On Sunday, it was teenager Divock Origi who turned a listless Belgian performance into a late 1-0 win over Russia, enough to qualify for the next round.
Belgium barely contained a reinvigorated Russia for most of the match, yet struck with a blistering late spurt of class and opportunism to turn a bad situation into a wild, fist-pumping celebration for coach Marc Wilmots and his team in the 88th minute.
“Why were we good in last 10 minutes? Simple, the others were tired,” said Wilmots. “The Russians were so tired they looked at their feet, and it offered us chances to counter.”
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 the amazing turnaround. At first it appeared as if late flashes 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 the victory.
“Nobody could have thought this possible,” said Origi, who was only called into the squad because No. 1 striker Christian Benteke injured his Achilles in April. Most of Belgium barely knew of the talented young player developing quickly for Lille in the French league.
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 applied most pressure in the second half and was let down by its blunt finishing touch. That helped give Belgian goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois his 100th professional clean sheet at age 22.
“We got the last pass wrong, or shot too quickly,” Russia coach Fabio Capello said. “The result was unfair, but the fact is we lost.”
Algeria 4, South Korea 2
PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil — Islam Slimani scored one goal and made two more as Algeria swept to a 4-2 victory over South Korea on Sunday to become the first African team to score four goals in a World Cup match.
The result gives Algeria a first World Cup win since 1982 and moves it into second place in Group H with one match left to play, against Russia.
Slimani opened the scoring with a fine solo goal after 26 minutes as his team raced into a 3-0 lead at halftime. However, it then had to withstand a South Korean fight back after the break to secure the points.
“The first period was almost perfect,” Algerian coach Vahid Halilhodzic said. “I’d like to dedicate this victory to the fans and the Algerian people who have been waiting for this for many, many years.”
Defeat for South Korea means it must now beat already-qualified Belgium and hope that other results go its way to progress to the knockout stages.
Belgium leads with six points, Algeria now has three, while Russia and the South Koreans have one apiece.
Halilhodzic had promised changes after an opening 2-1 defeat to Belgium and introduced five new players on Sunday, essentially rebuilding its attack.
Algeria dominated the opening 15 minutes, with midfield playmaker Sofiane Feghouli and Slimani both coming close. South Korea struggled to keep possession in the middle of the pitch and was toothless going forward.
Slimani, one of three Algeria scorers who didn’t start against Belgium, finally broke the deadlock, running onto a through ball between two defenders, controlling it once and then steering it past Jung Sung-ryong.
Algeria, which failed to score at the 2010 World Cup, doubled its lead two minutes later when defender Rafik Halliche powerfully headed in a corner after Jung came off his line but failed to make contact with the ball.
Algeria’s third also came from a long ball, which Slimani neatly pulled back to Abdelmoumene Djabou, who was in space and side-footed home from close to the penalty spot.
“The coach gave me clear instructions and they worked,” said Slimani, who was voted Algerian player of the year in 2013. “We didn’t get a good start to the tournament but I think we played a good match today. I hope we can qualify, God willing.”