Belgium finds form late to avoid upset bid of stingy Algeria, wins 2-1

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Try as they might, the tournament’s dark horses couldn’t find the light of day against a stingy Algerian defense until Kevin De Bruyne and Marouane Fellaini came together.

Fellaini’s header of a beautiful De Bruyne cross restored a bit of order to Belgium’s match with Algeria, and Dries Mertens made it official with an 80th minute winner the game finished 2-1 to the Group H favorites in both teams’ opener of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Sofiane Feghouli drew and converted a penalty as the Desert Foxes took the lead on a 23rd minute penalty. Here’s how we were seeing it at the half.

But Belgium kept knocking, trying different keys and flat-out charging the door. De Bruyne was fantastic, and deserved to be rewarded by the time Fellaini gave the Red Devils their equalizer.

It’s also fitting that Belgium didn’t equalize until the departure of a disappointing Romelu Lukaku. This was his game map moments before he came off for Divock Origi:

And then came Martins, another substitute providing the end of a brilliant combination play to put Belgium up 2-1 with a laser into the back of the net.

From that point on, it was all Belgium. The threats on goal didn’t stop, but Adi Mbolhi made some brilliant saves (as he did for much of the day).

The substitutions from Belgian coach Marc Wilmots were spot on, as taking off Tottenham players Nacer Chadli and Mousa Dembele led to goals from replacements Mertens and Fellaini.

Algeria will be crushed after scoring their first World Cup goal since 1986, and coming so close to pulling off another major upset.

Belgium moves to the top of Group H, while Algeria slips to the bottom. South Korea and Russia will finish off day one of the group at 6pm ET tonight.

LINEUPS

Belgium: Courtois, Alderweireld, Van Buyten, Kompany, Vertonghen, Witsel, Dembele (Fellaini, 64′), De Bruyne, Hazard, Chadli (Mertens, 46′), Lukaku (Origi, 57′)

Goals: Fellaini (69′), Mertens (79′)

Algeria: Mbolhi, Bougherra, Ghoulam, Halliche, Feghouli, Medjani (Ghilas, 85′), Bentaleb, Soudani (Slimani, 65′), Taider, Mahrez (Lacen, 71′), Mostefa

Goals: Feghouli (PK, 23′)

WATCH: Spain’s Saul smashes a shot past Italy’s Donnarumma

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Since returning from a loan at Rayo Vallecano, Saul Niguez has been a somewhat under the radar star at Atletico Madrid.

Coming off his best season with Atleti, the 22-year-old Saul is making an even bigger name for himself at the U-21 EURO this summer.

Spain’s Saul scored a hat trick past Gianluigi Donnarumma and Italy on Tuesday, and the second goal was laced with venom.

Getting onto the ball from 30-plus yards out, Saul smashed his shot with enough power that the ball barely had occasion to rotate.

Saul is under contract at the Vicente Calderon through 2022, and has three caps for Spain’s senior team, too. He was rated Atleti’s third-best performer by WhoScored this season.

Men in Blazers podcast: Transfer window, USMNT at Gold Cup, RBNY-NYCFC

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Men In Blazers are back with their latest podcast, and the boys are hitting club soccer here and abroad as well as Bruce Arena’s men in the red, white, and blue.

Rog and Davo break down transfer window activity, rumored and real; get a heat check on the USMNT heading into the Gold Cup; and recap the (Ray) Hudson River Derby.

All of the MiB content — pods, videos and stories can be seen here, but to really stay in touch, follow, subscribe, click here:

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Agent Jorge Mendes appears before judge in Falcao tax probe

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MADRID (AP) Football agent Jorge Mendes has told a Spanish judge that he had no involvement in the financial planning of client Radamel Falcao, who has been accused by a state prosecutor of tax fraud.

Mendes, who is not accused of any wrongdoing, appeared before a judge in a Madrid court for 45 minutes on Tuesday as part of the probe into whether there are grounds for the case against Falcao to go to trial.

[ MORE: Lampard linked with manager opening ]

Mendes’ agency, Gestifute, released a statement saying that “neither he nor his employees have ever intervened in the creation of corporate structures for his clients and much less provided any tax advice to them.”

Last month, a state prosecutor accused Falcao of defrauding Spain’s Tax Office of around $6 million from 2012-13. The alleged unpaid taxes were from money the Colombian player made from endorsement deals through image rights, not from the salary he was then being paid from club Atletico Madrid. Falcao now plays for Monaco.

Arfield, Adekugbe on Canada’s Gold Cup roster

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Burnley midfielder Scott Arfield and on-loan Brighton defender Samuel Adekugbe are among the players who will represent Canada in this summer’s Gold Cup.

Arfield, 28, was born in Scotland and earned the first of seven Canada caps in 2016, and Adekugbe returns to Vancouver from a year-long loan to Brighton and Hove Albion on June 30.

The pair join nine MLS players, two NASL player, and a USL player, with the rest of the group based outside North America.

[ MORE: Lampard linked with manager opening ]

Notably, Orlando City players Will Johnson and Cyle Larin were not called up by coach Octavio Zambrano.

Goalkeepers: Maxime Crepeau (Montreal), Milan Borjan (MKS Korona Kielce), Jayson Leutwiler (Shrewsbury Town)

Defenders: Samuel Adekugbe (Brighton and Hove Albion), Fraser Aird, Manjrekar James (Vasas Budapest), Dejan Jakovic (New York Cosmos), Adam Straith (FC Edmonton), Steven Vitoria (Lechia Gdansk), Marcel de Jong (Vancouver Whitecaps)

Midfielders: Scott Arfield (Burnley), Patrice Bernier (Montreal), Alphonso Davies (Vancouver), Raheem Edwards (Toronto FC), Junior Hoilett (Cardiff City), Mark-Anthony Kaye (Louisville City FC), Anthony Jackson-Hamel (Montreal), Jonathan Osorio (Toronto), Michael Petrasso (QPR), Samuel Piette (CD Izarra), Russell Teibert (Vancouver)

Forwards: Lucas Cavallini (CA Penarol), Tosaint Ricketts (Toronto)