The hangover in the United States is finally starting to wear off, and just in time for more brilliant play on the pitch in the 2014 World Cup.
After Team USA took their opener and Germany dismantled Portugal on Day 5, Tuesday's action promised to bring much more of the same. With two potential contenders for the final, the soccer world's eyes were once again on Brazil for Day 6.
Belgium, who came in as the group favorite and a dark horse to win the World Cup, had their backs against the wall taking on Algeria in their opener before a late comeback. In a completely separate group, both Mexico and Brazil were looking to earn a crucial second win in the stage.
Here's a look at the updated group tables and results for Day 6 of the World Cup.
|2014 World Cup Group Standings|
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||0||-1||1||0||0||1|
Belgium 2, Algeria 1
It wasn't pretty—and it definitely wasn't easy—but Belgium came away with three points in their opener.
A huge goal from Algeria on a penalty kick opportunity gave them an early lead in the match. Algeria were disciplined throughout the first half, but Sofiane Feghouli's lone goal was all they had to show for it.
Grant Wahl of Sports Illustrated passed along his thoughts on the surprising start from Algeria:
Coming into the match, Belgium coach Marc Wilmots was prepared for a strong second half. The former Red Devils player went into Brazil with a loaded roster that had plenty of depth and knew he had fresh legs heading into the final 45 minutes.
Wilmots spoke about his substitutes leading up to the opening match, per FIFA.com:
I tend to focus just as much on those that aren’t playing. I want my substitutes to show the same level of desire as the starters. ... Half our winning goals in the qualifiers were netted by substitutes.
If one player doesn’t perform well I’m not worried. I’ve 23 players to work with and no-one is guaranteed to start. I’ll make my decisions based on what I see from them in training.
Those words would prove true in the first match of the tournament for the Red Devils.
Marouane Fellaini came off the bench to knot up the score with a strike in the 70th minute. It was also the lone World Cup goal in over a decade for Belgium since a familiar face notched a point in 2002, per the FIFA World Cup account:
Just 10 minutes later, yet another sub would come up huge for the Red Devils. Dries Mertens took a beautiful cross and struck from the right side to secure the sixth comeback victory for the tournament.
ESPN FC provides a look at the goal and the celebration for Belgium:
Outside of a 0-0 draw yesterday between Nigeria and Iran, nearly every match has brought exciting offense on the pitch. Seven goals were scored on Day 5 despite the draw and already another three have been tallied on Tuesday afternoon.
That scoring total thus far has put this year's World Cup in a class of its own, as ESPN Stats & Info notes:
In a Group H that doesn't offer much punch with South Korea and Russia ahead of them, Belgium looks very likely to advance out of the stage. While either team could pull a surprise triumph later in the tournament, a win on Sunday afternoon might just seal the country's fate.
Brazil 0, Mexico 0
The scoring was bound to slow down, but it wasn't from a lack of effort by Brazil and Mexico.
Both countries battled on the pitch for a solid 90 minutes—with some stoppage time thrown in—but neither was able to find the back of the net. One of the best players throughout the match was Guillermo Ochoa, who came away with six saves against a stout Brazilian attack.
Jonathan Johnson of ESPN passes along his thoughts on Ochoa's brilliant performance:
Neymar and Thiago Silva both had opportunities to put Brazil ahead, but were unable to come away with crucial goals.
The team that came in as the favorites and of course playing in front of their home crowd, Brazil narrowly missed out on countless points that would have stolen away the win.
How long has it been since any country has earned a point against the vaunted Brazilian team? ESPN Stats & Info notes the length of the streak for the home club:
While Mexico came into the match with slim hopes of pulling out a win, the draw certainly keeps the team well in contention. Four points through two matches after the struggles they experienced last year has to be an uplifting feeling for Mexican fans.
For one Mexico faithful, in particular, the match was a shocking one:
Brazil and Mexico come away with four points and still sit atop Group A, but will need to secure another win to seal their bid into the next round. Both countries have a history of winning, and will likely still be the two advancing out of the difficult group.
Russia 1, Korea 1
It took five days in Brazil for the first draw to occur. After Day 6, three have now taken place.
The only difference in the match between Russia and Korea was the fact that both teams actually tallied goals. Both countries traded possession throughout the first half, with much of the action taking place in the final 45 minutes.
With Russia hoping to build steam before hosting the 2018 World Cup, they got off to a rough start against Korea. The Taegeuk Warriors were not able to attack on many offensive possessions, but finally broke through in the 68th minute with a Lee Keunho goal, per ESPN FC:
Sure, Keunho was credited with the point, but it was far from a perfect strike. Igor Akinfeev, an experienced Russian goalie with CSKA Moscow, befuddled Russian fans with his botched attempt at a save.
Squawka Football joked about the howler following the goal by Korea:
Luckily, Alexander Kerzhakov had Akinfeev's back. Just minutes later, the Russian striker came through with a clutch strike that put his team back in contention.
Following an unfortunate rebound for the Korean keeper, the ball found the foot of Kerzhakov and eventually the back of the net. Bleacher Report UK gives a look at the play along with a memo to Akinfeev:
While neither team secured a win, both are still squarely in the running to advance. With Belgium defeating Algeria earlier in the day, both teams are ahead of the Fennec Foxes.
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