Belgium left it late once again, but their heroics have them through to the knockout stages and atop Group H following a 1-0 victory Sunday afternoon over Russia at Estádio Maracanã in Rio de Janeiro.
An 88th-minute blast by 19-year-old Divock Origi, who became the youngest goal-scorer in Belgium history, highlighted what was, until late, a frustrating offensive performance from the talented Red Devils. Belgium also needed a late comeback to earn a 2-1 victory over Algeria in their World Cup opener.
Russia, meanwhile, will need full points from their final group match June 26 against Algeria after their opening 1-1 draw against South Korea.
ACTION IN THE END: Just minutes after Kevin Mirallas hit the post on a free kick in the 84th minute, Belgium finally found the back of the net on an Origi blast. Eden Hazard pierced the Russian defense on a deep run on the left flank and left off for a charging Origi, who applied the top-shelf finish (WATCH IT HERE).
Origi came on in the 57th minute for a furious Romelu Lukaku, who was yanked from his second consecutive match.
EARLY BELGIUM CHANGE: Belgium defender Thomas Vermaelen had to come off at the half-hour mark after aggravating a knock he apparently picked up in warm-ups. The Arsenal man was replaced by Jan Vertonghen.
GOOD CHANCES: Russia had the best chance in a subdued first half. A minute before the break, Alexander Kokorin split defenders Vincent Kompany and Vertonghen to get on the end of a cross. But his wide-open header was well off the mark (WATCH IT HERE). Belgium’s best chances in the early going came through Dries Mertens, who terrorized the Russian defense on the right wing. None of his three first-half shots, however, found the back of the net.
CHANGES DON’T PAY OFF: After a slow start in their opening win against Algeria, Belgium saw both of their goals come from second-half subs Marouane Fellaini and Mertens. They both got the start against Russia, but aside from Mertens’ bright offensive play in the first half, it didn’t pay off on the score line.
AKINFEEV BETTER: Until the late goal, Russia goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev acquitted himself nicely after a disastrous opening game against South Korea, when he let the opponents' only goal slip right through his fingers. This time out, the CSKA Moscow captain played a mistake-free 90 minutes despite recording just one save.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Vincent Kompany, center back, Belgium. He was the leader of an extremely stingy Belgium backline, holding the Russians to just three shots on target.