Almost a full week into the Cup, we have witnessed everything we could have possibly imagined. As the days pass, our excitement only seems to increase! Day one saw us ready for soccer, day two saw us enjoying the soccer, day three saw us loving the soccer, day four saw us craving the soccer, and day five nearly had us chewing our fingernails down to the bone for soccer. With Brazil and Belgium on the docket, it seemed completely possible that day six could continue the incredible tournament that we have seen so far.
Algeria vs Belgium
Can you still be a “dark horse” if everyone is saying that you are their “dark horse?” Sadly, since everyone is giving you an outside chance, you have technically stepped into the realm of a “favorite.” So, how many people were scrambling to choose a new “dark horse” as Algeria were awarded a penalty that was easily dispatched? Although Hazard was on the pitch from the start, Belgium looked very similar to Chelsea during the season when Hazard was NOT present on the pitch. A lack of ideas and too much time spent on the ball allowed Algeria to bring every player back in order to create a wall of defenders that Belgium just could not break down. As the half-time whistle came, the only question was which subs would enter the game, and when would they enter the game.
Belgium decided to keep the impressive hair of Fellaini on the bench after the half, but the Red Devils would bring on Mertens to try and break down an Algerian team that seemed completely content to try and wait out their three points. While Mertens would make a goal seem more likely, the relief would not come to the Belgian team and fans within the stadium. So, it was time to bring on Fellaini in the 65th minute to see if he could provide a positive impact. In a tournament filled with Manchester United players giving United fans an extreme sense of anticipation for the upcoming BPL season, Fellaini would cushion a fantastic header with his fantastic hair as it looped into the goal to tie the game at 1-1. As Algeria allowed the game to stretch as both sides attempted to find a winner, an amazing counter from Belgium saw second-half sub Mertens blister the winning shot into the back of the net, bringing massive celebrations from the Belgians. The start of Belgium’s tournament might not have been fantastic, but three points will be all anyone remembers if their tournament can stretch deep into the knockout rounds.
Brazil vs Mexico
It is terrible to ruin a scoreline early, but it has to be said that it will be difficult to find a more exciting 0-0 game in the entirety of the tournament. A first half that began with the referee attempting to ensure that the second Brazil game would be dominated by the actions of the ref, it seemed as if every slight touch on a Brazilian merited a whistle while the Mexican players needed to be shot from a cannon to actually draw a foul. Neymar started the game brightly as he continues to feel the biggest spotlight from his home country shining, but Mexico’s keeper Ochoa ensured that Neymar would not be allowed to continue an assault on the goal-scoring charts in Brazil. The first half felt more like Brazil vs Ochoa as the Mexican keeper ensured that half-time would be reached with a clean sheet in tact.
The second half seemed to be a completely different story as Mexico started blasting thunderbolts at Julio Cesar. While Mexico continued the assault (mixed in with the ref stamping an odd “authority” on the match), the Mexican stars from the opening match in Peralta and dos Santos were markedly quiet as the majority of the true Mexican chances came from elsewhere. Keep in mind that this central pairing for Brazil is probably exactly what we will see from PSG in the upcoming campaign. A second half filled with passing mistakes from both teams that would seem to lead to constant counter-attacks, it is unsurprising that both keepers felt like the best players in this game. Brazil would pound on the door in the closing moments, but Ochoa would keep the door locked and shut tight. The biggest take away from this game will be a massive removal of the perceived mystique that Brazil had in this tournament. Now, every team will think that if Mexico can push Brazil like this, surely we can walk away with a victory.
Russia vs South Korea
Disjointed. A simple descriptor for this game and yet one that feels completely appropriate. A rather boring first half that begun with teams seeming to trade mistakes would result in a somewhat difficult viewing experience. However, as the half wound on, Russia would start to assert dominance in the possession stats. While the ball would spend the majority of the time at the feet of the Russians, the end result was always lacking from both squads. It was no surprise that the half-time show was dominated by talk about the previous match as the ongoing game had provided little for anyone to talk about.
The second half started completely differently. Russia would have two presentable chances within the first two minutes, brought about as the game began to open up meaning that definite scoring chances would present themselves throughout the early minutes; but the breakthrough would come from South Korea (and a little help from Russian keeper Akinfeev) in the 68th minute. While Lee Keun-Ho certainly unleashed an absolute bullet of a shot, Akinfeev will feel completely responsible as the Russian keeper was well positioned and got both hands behind the shot. It is completely worth noting that BOTH keepers were struggling to keep hold of the ball throughout this affair, with a shot spilled from Korea’s keeper resulting in Russian sub Kerzhakov being able to equalize from extremely close range. Oddly enough, despite both keepers showing obvious frailties, both teams were unable to produce another worthwhile chance for the rest of the match…a fitting draw.
Another fantastic day of World Cup that kept with the tournament’s “tradition” of having us begging for more as the day ends. With the Netherlands looking to continue scoring at will, Spain looking to bounce back, and Croatia looking to prove that they are much better than their Brazil match showed, the day will certainly be full of drama. Will we be watching? OF COURSE!