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:
Romelu Lukaku hasn’t registered a single touch in the opposition area for #BEL v #ALG so far http://t.co/jLDLSHh5I4 pic.twitter.com/ZbTgPVtXnP
— Match Zone (@MailMatchZone) June 17, 2014
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.
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′)