RIO DE JANEIRO — Twice now, Belgium has relied on a late revival boosted by stamina and its bench to turn desperate situations around at the World Cup. On Sunday, it was teenager Divock Origi who turned a listless Belgian performance into a late 1-0 win over Russia, enough to qualify for the next round.
Belgium barely contained a reinvigorated Russia for most of the match, yet struck with a blistering late spurt of class and opportunism to turn a bad situation into a wild, fist-pumping celebration for coach Marc Wilmots and his team in the 88th minute.
“Why were we good in last 10 minutes? Simple, the others were tired,” said Wilmots. “The Russians were so tired they looked at their feet, and it offered us chances to counter.”
After its dour 1-1 draw with South Korea, Russia produced the kind of sparkle and dominance that most had been expected more from Belgium in front of 73,819 increasingly restless fans at Maracana stadium.
With Belgian King Philippe looking on, substitute Kevin Mirallas hit a freekick against the post in 84th minute, setting off the amazing turnaround. At first it appeared as if late flashes from Eden Hazard would only camouflage a dismal performance.
But then the playmaker made a move into the area on the left and spotted Origi free in the center. A pinpoint pass from Hazard and cool right-foot finishing from the 19-year-old Origi gave Belgium the victory.
“Nobody could have thought this possible,” said Origi, who was only called into the squad because No. 1 striker Christian Benteke injured his Achilles in April. Most of Belgium barely knew of the talented young player developing quickly for Lille in the French league.
Belgium didn’t play with any real authority for most of the game on a bright, sunny afternoon in Rio, confounding predictions that it should be one of the teams to watch at the World Cup.
Instead, it was Russia applied most pressure in the second half and was let down by its blunt finishing touch. That helped give Belgian goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois his 100th professional clean sheet at age 22.
“We got the last pass wrong, or shot too quickly,” Russia coach Fabio Capello said. “The result was unfair, but the fact is we lost.”
Belgium moved to six points with the win, five ahead of Russia and South Korea — the Koreans were playing Algeria later Sunday.
“Now we will build a party, but then it is back to work as of tomorrow,” Wilmots said.
Algeria 4, South Korea 2
PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil — First-half goals by Islam Slimani and Rafik Halliche helped Algeria to a 4-2 victory over South Korea on Sunday, leaving the African nation second in Group H with one match left to play.
Algeria led 3-0 at halftime, but withstood a stronger South Korean second half performance to claim its first World Cup win since 1982.
Slimani scored on 26 minutes and, two minutes after the restart, defender Rafik Halliche headed in a corner. Algeria made it 3-0 in the 38th when Abdelmoumene Djabou side-footed home.
South Korea started positively after the break and pulled a goal back on 48 minutes when Son Heung-min shot through the legs of Rais Mbolhi.
Yacini Brahimi then scored for Algeria before South Korean captain Koo Ja-cheol bundled home his team’s second goal.