World Cup: Recaps

Keeping up with the Cup: Day 6

Belgium 2-1 Algeria

The most popular dark horse pick of the tournament got off to a dark start. It is nearly absurd that a team featuring Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard can look devoid of ideas, but Belgium pulled it off. And when Algeria realized they were not pinned back, the match took a surprising turn.

When Jan Vertonghen, a fine central defender and an ineffective left back, dragged down Sofiane Faghouli in the box, the Algerian striker made no mistake with his penalty. The Belgian response would not come until halftime. Head coach Marc Wilmots, as sick as the rest of us of watching Nacer Chadli occupy the right wing with all the speed and energy of an anesthetized sloth, put in a real soccer player and completely changed the complexion of the match. Dries Mertens popped up in deeper positions, giving Axel Witsel an outlet that was less of a black hole of dribbling than Moussa Dembele. Mertens’ penetrating runs pulled the Algerian defense away deeper, giving Kevin De Bruyne the time he needed to pick apart a defense with his delicious service.

Still, Belgium could not break through until Dembele made his best play of the day: Getting subbed out. His replacement, Marouane Fellaini, stood around being tall until a De Bruyne cross plonked his noggin and nestled in Rais M’Bohli’s net.

Ten minutes later, Mertens got the goal his performance deserved on the end of a breakout pass from Hazard.

Takeaways

That Kevin De Bruyne kid is really something when he has space to operate.

International soccer is increasingly about outside backs. Even if they aren’t the most skilled, having backs that can make runs and free up the wingers is important. Belgium do not have this.

Axel Witsel is good. Moussa Dembele is not. At least not lately.

For as bad as Dembele was, he might keep his job in the middle. Marouane Fellaini offers no help to his outside backs defensively.

Algeria are well-coached. They defended Belgium perfectly until Mertens’ verticality changed the match.

Brazil 0-0 Ochoa

The hosts huffed and puffed, but Momo Ochoa was made of brick. Positioning, moving, reacting, Ochoa got it all right in goal.

And once again, Mexico looked cohesive and organized, a far cry from their qualifying campaign. With five in the back, the Mexicans can adjust their formation on the fly and overload either side of the field to free up Jose Vazquez and the sprite that is Giovanni Dos Santos. It was a bit surprising to see Javier Hernandez held off until the 74th minute. Chicharito immediately put pressure on Thiago Silva, who looks increasingly like a shell of his former self.

On another day, Brazil scores at least two, but this scoreless tie may be exactly what they need. After getting a favor from the man in the middle to break down Croatia, the men in yellow may have been able to rationalize away their creative struggles. Today’s match should force some soul-searching, especially from the players occupying Brazil’s deepest positions: The central midfield engines. Ramires was far from his blitzing best and Paulinho once again seemed as though he was curious about what he was doing on a big patch of grass with 22 other people in uniforms.

Takeaways

Bernard, Fernandinho, and Willian are all itching to get a start. With Hulk a bit lame and the midfield in front of Luiz Gustavo listless, those players – who all had strong club seasons – should see the field as Brazil looks to close out the group.

Mexico has some gaping holes, but with an effective five-back system they could be a tough draw in the knockout rounds.

Dos Santos and Vazquez are dangerous creators on the break.

Russia 1-1 South Korea

Apparently Ochoa soaked up all the goalkeeping juju and left nothing for Jung Sung-Ryong and Igor Akinfeev. Though both teams looked organized and non-theatening, goals were scored when keepers were unable to do their job to the best of their abilities. First, Akinfeev made himself a candidate for the Not Top 10 when he took his eye off a simple shot by Lee Keun-Ho and squeezed the ball over his own head and into the net. As Casey Keller said, “He won’t forget that one.”

Six minutes later, Jung failed to control a low shot and the rebound eventually found its way to noted poacher Alexander Kerzhakov. Whether the Russian striker was offsides as he slotted home from four yards out is a bit subjective. The ball was played off the chest of a teammate, but it seemed more like the ball hit the player than a pass being made. Tough call, no whistle blew, and the Russians successfully thwarted a meek Korean attack to see out the point.

Takeaways

The Russian defense is massive in the air.

The Russian defense is slooooow.

South Korea, like Belgium before them, could not break down a sturdy defense.

4 Comments

  1. That Mexico-Brazil game was the best 0-0 tie I have seen in a while.

    It was hot a hot match.

  2. Agreed. That game was a case in point of how thrilling a 0-0 draw can be. Most the rest of Americans would think it must have been a bore fest.

    • The Black Hand says:

      10 years ago, yes, but American fans are beginning to develop and can recognize the quality that was shown in that match…by Mexico.
      .
      Brazil, on the other hand, looks vulnerable. Their strikers have yet to show up and their back line (especially Alves) looks beatable. I can’t believe that PSG threw 60 mil at Luiz!! Thiago Silva is legit.

  3. The Black Hand says:

    Dembele is nice!

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