Belgium wrapped up the top spot in Group H and a Round of 16 meeting with the US national team after 1-0 win over South Korea despite being cut down to 10 men at the halfway mark Thursday at Arena de São Paulo.
A Jan Vertonghen goal in the 77th minute was the decisive moment for a Red Devils side that rested a handful of starters with a trip to the knockout rounds already sealed after wins in their previous two outings.
The tournament comes to a disappointing end for the Taeguk Warriors, who could have advanced to the knockout stages for the second consecutive tournament with a win and Algeria loss. With their 1-1 draw against Russia, Algeria secured the group’s runner-up spot.
Belgium will face the USMNT, who clinched the second spot in Group G following their 1-0 loss to Germany earlier in the day, on July 1 in Salvador.
SHORTHANDED GOAL: Despite playing with 10 men, Belgium continued to push forward and struck when Divock Origi, who scored the winning goal in Belgium’s 1-0 win over Russia, sent a blast at South Korea goalkeeper Kim Seung-Gyu, who parried away but right to Vertonghen. The veteran Tottenham defender made no mistake with his effort, burying it past the helpless Kim. And that means...
SITTER MISSED: Belgium had plenty of chances in the first half before being cut down to 10 men. The most glaring miss was a wide-open look by Dries Mertens. The hero from Belgium’s 2-1 win over Algeria in their tournament opener with the winning goal in that match, Mertens was squared in front of goal by teammate Kevin Mirallas. But he launched his right-footed shot well into the crowd.
SEEING RED: Belgium midfielder Steven Defour earned his first start in this World Cup and was promptly shown the door right before halftime when he came in studs up on a challenge on Kim Shin-Wook. Not only did that hamstring Belgium for the remainder of the match, but it means he’ll be out for their first Round of 16 match.
BELGIUM ROTATE: With a spot in the knockout rounds already secured, Belgium came out with a completely different look from their lineup that beat Russia 1-0 in their last game, resting five starters. With Red Devils defenders Vincent Kompany and Thomas Vermaelen battling slight knocks, manager Marc Wilmots inserted Anthony Vanden Borre in at right back and Vertonghen on the opposite flank. Adnan Januzaj, the 19-year-old Manchester United attacker, and Mertens, who was used in midfield against Russia, started around target forward Mirallas, in his first start of the tournament, up top.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Vertonghen, Belgium. He hit the winner but was also very dangerous on the overlap.