For the sixth day in a row, Tuesday's action from Brazil reminded the world why nothing in this World Cup can be taken for granted.
Brazil and Belgium each entered their respective matches as strong favorites to grab three points, but each found that task far easier said than done. The Belgians needed some late heroics from Marouane Fellaini and Dries Mertens to move past Algeria, while Selecao stumbled to a scoreless draw against Mexico.
Even Russia vs. South Korea, which had plenty of forgettable moments, turned into a thrilling 1-1 draw.
Let's take a closer look at each match, along with an updated look at each table:
|Tuesday, June 17 Fixtures and Scores|
|2014 World Cup Standings|
|FIFA.com; As of June 17|
Tagged so much as the tournament's "dark horse" that they eventually crept into "favorite" status, Belgium came out incredibly flat. While they controlled most of the possession, they never really looked threatening until the final third. Eight of their nine shots in the first half came from outside the box.
In the 24th minute, Jan Vertonghen sloppily pulled down Sofiane Feghouli in the box, and the latter calmly slotted one past Thibaut Courtois from the spot. It ended quite the drought, as ESPN Stats & Info noted:
Time continued to tick away, and it began to look like Algeria was going to steal three points, but a pair of subs from Marc Wilmots turned out to be the difference. He brought on Divock Origi for Romelu Lukaku in the 58th minute, and Fellaini for Mousa Dembele in the 65th.
It took the second sub, who disappointingly went scoreless for Manchester United this season, just five minutes to equalize with a gorgeous header.
Ten minutes later, Belgium broke on the counter and Eden Hazard found a wide open Mertens, who fired one home for the win. Ho-hum. Just another run-of-the-mill, come-from-behind, scintillating match from the 2014 World Cup:
Belgium was far from perfect, but three points is three points, and Wilmots' squad—which is unbelievably talented but inexperienced at this level—will grow from this. On the flip side, you have to feel for Algeria, but they showed enough to suggest they can still survive this relatively weak group.
In the day's second match, Brazil and Mexico fought to a 0-0 draw. Still, don't mistake this for Nigeria vs. Iran.
While there were no goals, the game was played at a breathtaking tempo. There were a lot of chances—both teams combined for 28 shots and eight on target, per WhoScored.com—and several impressive individual performances.
Brazil's Luiz Felipe Scolari summarized the captivating match, via The Mirror's Jack Lang:
Excellent might be an understatement. Guillermo Ochoa stoned superstar Neymar three times and made four world-class saves to steal a point for El Tri. He ended with six overall in the Herculean effort, with this serving as the best effort of the match and arguably of the tournament so far:
ESPN's Jonathan Johnson put it simply:
Mexico became the first nation outside of Europe and South America to grab a point from Brazil, and both sides now look like strong bets to advance out of Group A.
Finally, Russia and South Korea played to a 1-1 draw.
Igor Akinfeev's horrible blunder in goal gave Hong Myung-Bo's team a lead in the second half. However, the Russians bounced right back with an equalizer from Alexander Kerzhakov, who subbed on three minutes prior.
That continued an intriguing trend from this year's tournament, as Opta Sports noted:
Ultimately, both goals were forgettable. Still, even in one of the tournament's "bad" matches, there were 10 shots on targets, equal possession and several opportunities for game-winners in the final moments.
We'll take it.
Australia vs. Netherlands and Cameroon vs. Croatia bookend Wednesday's matchups, but one of the most important matches of the week falls in between: Spain vs. Chile. The defending champions desperately need three points after their shellacking vs. Oranje, while Chile will be in great shape with a draw.
That's not the Chileans' style, though, as they love to press for 90 minutes and can be susceptible in the back.
In other words, the World Cup will continue to provide an unbelievable amount of thrills Wednesday.
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