Belgium survived a scare in their first match of the World Cup on Tuesday narrowing defeating Algeria 2-1.
The first matchup in Group H proved to be quite a contest when Algerian striker Sofiane Feghouli was awarded a penalty in the 25th minute. Feghouli flew by Belgian defender Jan Vertonghen, who had no choice but to haul him down in the box.
Vettonghen was shown a yellow card and Feghouli scored giving Algeria a 1-0 lead and the country’s first World Cup goal in well over a decade. And so the Belgians were forced to come from behind despite having all the possession in the first half. But they did eventually respond.
Manchester United’s Marouane Fellaini scored the equalising goal with a brilliant header in the 70th minute. Dries Mertens scored 10 minutes later to give Belgium the three points and their first win of the tournament.
I was shocked at this result. Belgium has all kinds of depth within their roster. With Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku up front and Mousa Dembele and Axel Witsel in midfield, I thought for sure Belgium was going to win this game easily. They had all the possession at 65%-35%. But they didn’t seem to do anything with it. It looked to me as if they were on the training ground practicing keeping the ball. They didn’t seem to have that desire to attack or use their speed to break through the Algerian defence.
Hazard was pretty much non-existent and the Algerian defence closed down Lukaku very quickly. The Algerian defence did a wonderful job boxing out the Belgians and launched several successful counter attacks as well.
Algerian goalkeeper Rais did his very best to keep his side in the game stopping a total of eight shots. However, in the end the Algerians couldn’t hang on and substitutes Fellaini and Mertens were able to get the job done.
However, Belgium coach Marc Wilmonts and his side know that this was a very fortunate win. I’m certain there will be a quite a few changes to the squad ahead of Belgium’s next match against Russia on June 22.
Regardless of all the mistakes, I believe Belgium still could be one of the dark horses of the tournament. Yes, they had a very shaky start in their first match. But now that they’ve got a win and settled their nerves, I believe they’ll top Group H.
The only thing that surprises me is that Simon Mignolet didn’t get the start in goal against Algeria. I hope Wilmonts puts him in at some point in the tournament. I can’t wait to see what kind of response Belgium will have in their next match after almost losing to Algeria.
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