Everyone's World Cup dark horse showed up late to the first race – but once Belgium found their stride and a winning strategy, more than an hour into their Group H opener, they sped past upset-minded Algeria for a 2-1 victory in Belo Horizonte.
Drawn, taken, converted: Sofiane Feghouli did it all in giving Algeria a 1-0 lead in the 24th minute. He made a late run into the box on a counter, drawing a penalty when Jan Vertonghen made a two-handed grab on his left arm, and then coolly finished from the spot. Keeper Thibaut Courtois made a short move to his right, and Feghouli slotted the ball into the right center of the goal.
Sit back and wait: With the early lead, the Desert Foxes had the luxury of keeping the game in front of them – maintaining defensive shape, clearing Belgian mistakes and looking for the occasional breakout. That approach held past the hour mark, before the early use of all three substitutions signaled a tactical change for the European side.
Big hair, big header: Belgium finally began to try cutting through the Algerian defense, instead of attempting to break it down with patient buildup, and the switch paid off. Divock Origi, who came on in the 58th minute, fired the first salvo with a blast that Rais M'Bolhi had to save with his leg. Then Marouane Fellaini, just five minutes after his 65th-minute entry, got onto Kevin De Bruyne's long cross and headed it home for the equalizer.
Decisive counterpunch: Pressing forward in an attempt to pull back all three points, Algeria left themselves open in the back – and that was all the opening Belgium needed for the 80th-minute match-winner. De Bruyne's takeaway in Belgium's end ignited the counter, Eden Hazard's cross found Dries Mertens on the right side, and Mertens took one touch before driving a screamer into the back of the net.
Man of the Match: De Bruyne. The baby-faced midfielder put his cross in perfect position for Fellaini's equalizer, then made a gutsy tackle to start the winning counterattack as the favorites completed their comeback.