Belgium secured top spot in the 2014 FIFA World Cup's Group H by beating South Korea 1-0 on Thursday evening.
Steven Defour's first-half red card made life difficult for the Red Devils, but with the game stretched late on it was Jan Vertonghen who stole in to convert a rebounded Divock Origi shot.
Formations and XIs
South Korea played their typical 4-2-3-1 formation but made their first two changes of the tournament. Goalkeeper Kim Seung-gyu and striker Kim Shin-wook started.
Belgium played a 4-3-3/4-2-3-1 hybrid with several reserves earning a run-out. Defour, Adnan Januzaj, Kevin Mirallas, Anthony Vanden Borre, Nicolas Lombaerts and Mousa Dembele all kicked off.
A Different Belgium
Marc Wilmots shuffled his pack personnel-wise, and as a result things were a little disjointed early on.
It's reasonable to believe the manager asked them to be a little more expansive and take a few more risks, too, as the gaps between the lines were as big as they've ever been over the last two years.
Vanden Borre powered forward from right-back more often than Toby Alderweireld ever did, ending up on the opposition byline several times and looking to cut balls back across goal.
Into the Channels
Defour did a good job in the Axel Witsel role but didn't quite stitch it together as well his compatriot usually does, leading to gaps behind the Dembele/Marouane Fellaini line and in the channels behind the full-backs.
South Korea noticed these early on and began firing passes into the wide areas for their wingers to pick up. Ki Sung-yueng would play a diagonal, usually favouring the right side, and Lee Chung-yong would look to bring them down and link with Kim up front.
Once Vertonghen had dropped a little due to the threat over the top Ki began testing the left, but Son Heung-min had little success when fighting for 50/50 balls with Vanden Borre.
Koo Ja-cheol then found some success in central zones due to all the space conceded, and South Korea enjoyed one notable spell in charge midway through the first half, forcing strong saves from Thibaut Courtois and a succession of corners.
Defour received a straight red card just before half-time for a dangerous challenge—a decision that completely changed the complexion of the game.
South Korea came out swinging after the break, leveling the possession battle immediately and attacking with more numbers than we've seen previously in the tournament.
For the third time this tournament a game involving Belgium became obscenely stretched, with the Red Devils now sitting in a deep-set 4-4-1 formation and using substitutes to keep their runners fresh.
Wilmots elected to attack with no more than four players at any time, sent on Origi to provide some spark and asked Nacer Chadli to work his socks off.
South Korea ran Son until he was ragged then replaced him with Ji Dong-won. Lee began flying forward from the right to try and force crosses into Kim, but Daniel van Buyten and Co. held strong.
Belgium haven't impressed, but they have nine points from a possible nine and qualify in first place to face the USA.
Their defensive rigidity is what got them to the World Cup, and it's continued to be their biggest strength, with three regulars to come back into that line—although Vanden Borre will have his manager thinking.
South Korea go out but did themselves proud in the final clash.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!