2014 FIFA World Cup: Day 11 Recap

Varela's goal keeps Portugal alive
Varela's goal keeps Portugal alive

Belgium Takes Advantage of Sleepwalking Russians

No one could blame you for dozing off during the snoozer between Belgium and Russia, but at least Belgium woke up before the final whistle, netting a last-second goal to give their fans something to cheer about. That lone Belgian goal, in the 88th minute, was the first for Divock Origi, who benefitted from a timely pass from Eden Hazard that gave him acres of space to get off a solid shot inside the area. But neither team passed particularly well, nor did they produce many quality chances, and this really should have been a much more exciting match between the two teams favoured to come out of their group. Considering Russia could only muster a tie against South Korea, they should have come into the game far more motivated.

Algeria Explodes Against South Korea

South Korea should have been warned when Algeria nearly extracted a draw from heavily favoured Belgium, but no one could have known just how ready the Algerians were to break out. In a period of just 12 minutes South Korea found themselves in a three-goal abyss and scrambling not only to stop the bleeding, but to somehow mount their own counterattack. In the 26th minute Islam Slimani, named man of the match, took a 70-yard pass and shook two defenders before poking the ball beyond the keeper; two minutes later Rafik Halliche thumped in a header off a corner kick; then 10 minutes after that a defensive miscue by Jeongho Hong handed the ball to Slimani, who slid a pass across that Abdelmoumene Djabou pounded into the goal. Halftime gave South Korea a chance to regroup and they came out firing, Heungmin Son taking a long, looping pass, dodging a defender and depositing the ball between the Algerian keeper’s legs. But any relief from that goal faded when Yacine Brahimi started and finished a tidy give-and-go with Sofiane Feghouli, restored Algeria’s three-goal lead. South Korean captain Jacheol Koo preserved a modicum of his team’s pride, redirecting a goalmouth pass from Keunho Lee in the 72nd minute for a second Korean goal. Algeria now sits second in Group H behind Belgium, needing only a draw in their match against Russia to secure a spot in the next round.

Portugal Refuses to Go Quietly

Another day, another game that goes down to the wire. Portugal looked ready to pack their bags and head home after giving up a 1-0 lead, but with seconds left in stoppage time Silvestre Varela threw himself head-first in front of a Cristiano Ronaldo cross to salvage a point for his team and send American heads spinning. Portugal looked ready to control from the opening whistle, notching a goal in the fifth minute off the boot of Nani. But as the game wore on the U.S. scratched and clawed back into contention. The Americans created opportunities to level the score, none finer than when Michael Bradley found himself in front of the Portuguese goal, the keeper out of position and no defenders within 10 feet, but promptly booted it straight at Ricardo Costa, the only obstacle between him and a tie game. Jermaine Jones finally drifted in a shot that froze Portuguese keeper Beto, giving the U.S. the equalizer they deserved. U.S. keeper Tim Howard, who earned man of the match honours, kept his team competitive with four incredible saves, opening the door for captain Clint Dempsey to play hero by redirecting a cross off his midsection and into Portugal’s net. But as U.S. fans began counting down the final seconds to Portugal’s elimination, Varela arrived to spoil the party. Germany and USA are still positioned to advance—if they play to a draw Thursday they’ll both move ahead—but Ghana and Portugal technically have a slim chance to sneak through if all the stars align just so.

Drew Berner

Drew Berner is a freelance writer born and raised in Toronto and specializing in entertainment, sports and politics. He occasionally collects vinyl records, enjoys hate-watching the Blue Jays, appreciates good beer and great scotch, and goes to sleep each night with 120 lbs. of Great Dane draped over him (it’s a lot more comfortable than it sounds). Follow him on Twitter @DrewBerner for photos of huge dogs, observational humour and assorted sports rage.

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