World Cup 2014: Winners and Losers from Day 6
Day 6 of the 2014 FIFA World Cup featured plenty more thrills—and a few spills—as the tournament welcomed Group H into the action.
Belgium needed late heroics to see off a plucky Algerian side in Belo Horizonte, while in the day’s final match Russia and South Korea played to a fascinating, if rather sloppy, 1-1 draw in the heat of Cuiaba.
Brazil and Mexico also played their second matches of the group stage schedule, and their head-to-head in Fortaleza featured a goalkeeping performance for the ages.
Following are the biggest winners and losers from another intriguing day of World Cup play.
Winner: Fabio Capello, Whose Substitution Paid Dividends
Russia manager Fabio Capello brought an entirely domestic-based squad to Brazil, and he raised a few eyebrows when he left Zenit St. Petersburg striker Alexander Kerzhakov on the bench from the start against South Korea.
As it happened, a 68th-minute gaffe by his goalkeeper altered his plans for Day 6’s final match in Cuiaba.
After Igor Akinfeev gifted South Korea the lead, Capello turned to the veteran Kerzhakov, who managed to restore level terms just three minutes after his introduction.
Loser: Fred, Who Disappointed Against Mexico
It’s shades of 1982 all over again: a talented Brazil team fronted by a less-than-popular, occasionally bumbling centre-forward.
On Tuesday in Fortaleza, Fred managed just two shots before being withdrawn to a chorus of boos at Estadio Castelao and missed at least one clear-cut opportunity.
He was replaced by Jo, who didn’t fare much better—touching the ball only 11 times and mustering a single shot in a 22-minute performance.
Winner: Dries Mertens, Who Struck a Memorable Winner for Belgium
Full credit to Algeria—they had Belgium in panic mode until the 80th minute of their Group H encounter in Belo Horizonte.
Sofiane Feghouli had given the Fennec Foxes the lead from the penalty spot after 25 minutes, and it wasn’t until the 70th that Marouane Fellaini restored level terms.
The match was crying out for a hero, and with 10 minutes remaining Dries Mertens provided a moment of magic at Estadio Mineirao.
Running onto a sublime Eden Hazard pass, Mertens struck an unstoppable winner that left goalkeeper Rais M’Bolhi well beaten as Belgium claimed the three points.
Loser: Jung Sung-Ryong, Who Gifted Russia an Equaliser
All Jung Sung-Ryong had to do was not lose the match for South Korea. He failed miserably.
Coming into the tournament, the Taegeuk Warriors goalkeepers were thought to be among the side’s predominant weaknesses, and on Tuesday in Cuiaba Sung-Ryong lived up to the billing. Or lack thereof.
Having taken the lead through a Russian mistake, the Asian outfit gifted their opponents an equaliser when Sung-Ryong parried Andrey Eschenko’s shot into the path of Alexander Kerzhakov, who had one of the simplest finishes of his career.
Winner: Marc Wilmots, Whose Second-Half Changes Lifted Belgium to Victory
Marc Wilmots didn’t like what he saw in the first half.
After just 45 minutes against Algeria in Belo Horizonte, the Belgium manager withdrew Nacer Chadli in favour of Dries Mertens, and just before the hour-mark he yanked Romelu Lukaku and sent out Divock Origi.
In the 65th minute it was Marouane Fellaini replacing Mousa Dembele.
Five minutes later the Red Devils were equal thanks to an accurate Fellaini header that beat Rais M’Bolhi.
And in the 80th minute it was another substitute—Mertens—who lashed a vicious drive past M’Bolhi for the winner.
Wilmots wasn’t too proud to admit his initial selection mistakes, and his changes ended up putting Belgium on top of Group H.
Loser: Son Heung-Min, Who Skied a Comedic Effort
An awkward first half in Cuiaba nearly ended with South Korea in the lead when Son Heung-min found himself in shooting space just a few yards in front of Russia goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev.
But not only did the attacker not place his shot on target, he also sent the ball into orbit—his effort (if you can call it that) representing perhaps the biggest miss of the World Cup so far.
At the time of his exit in the 84th minute Heung-min had taken just two other shots while failing to distribute the ball with anything resembling accuracy.
Winner: Guillermo Ochoa, Who Single-Handedly Earned a Point for Mexico
By the end of the first half in Fortaleza, Brazil were starting to get into a groove. And when Neymar popped up with a header from six yards out it looked as though the World Cup hosts were about to take the lead on Tuesday opponents Mexico.
But Guillermo Ochoa was having none of it.
In a save reminiscent of Gordon Banks’ effort on Pele in 1970, the Mexico goalkeeper dove to his right and got an outstretched hand on the ball as it approached the goal-line. Moments later he denied Paulinho, who had been set up by Thiago Silva.
And then Silva, himself, had an attempt rejected by Ochoa in the second half as the two sides played to a scoreless draw.
Loser: Igor Akinfeev, Who Committed a Blunder for the Ages
South Korea should never have taken the lead on Russia midway through the second half.
Lee Keun-Ho, who had just come on prior to the hour-mark, released a speculative drive from distance that Russia goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev should have caught easily.
But instead of confidently grabbing the ball, the CSKA Moscow man somehow managed to direct it up and over himself and into the back of the net.
Thankfully for Russia, an error at the opposite end of the field would gift them an equaliser only a few minutes later.