The game between Belgium and Russia was not one for the purists, and was an uninspired affair save for a moment of brilliance from Eden Hazard. Belgium managed to secure their berth in the knockout stages albeit unconvincingly whilst Russia must win and hope that the Red Devils do them a favor against South Korea.
Here are my 5 observations from the World Cup game:
1. Dries Mertens sparks, Hazard delivers but the Red Devils fail to fire
Spare a thought for Dmitry Kombarov who seemed to have no answer for Belgian winger Dries Mertens. To borrow a phrase from Sam Allardyce, the Russian fullback suffered from ‘twisted blood’ such was treatment the Belgian winger was dishing out to the Spartak Moscow man. Indeed Russia’s left appeared to be the weak link for Fabio Capello’s side and was exploited time and time again in the first half. It was surprising that Capello didn’t seem to rectify the situation as Komborov was being caught out on several occasions and couldn’t cope with Mertens on his own.
Mertens for all his hard work in the opening 45 minutes could not find the final ball for a teammate or trouble Igor Akinfeev more frequently. His performance in the second half failed to match his efforts in the first.
Marc Wilmots’ gamble to play Thomas Vermaelen backfired when the Arsenal defender and reported Manchester United target had to go off in the first half injured whilst Romelu Lukaku, who was so clinical for Everton, once again struggled to get into the game. Playing with his back to goal proved to be difficult for Lukaku and for a player of his physical attributes he should be using his size better.
To be fair Lukaku wasn’t alone in disappointing and the Belgians only seemed to spark into life in the last 10 minutes. Kevin Mirallas’ clever free kick deceived Igor Akinfeev but unfortunately for him the ball struck the bottom of the post whilst Eden Hazard only seemed to turn it on in the closing stages of the game when he setup the winner for Divock Origi.
2. Lukaku should fear for his place
After yet another lackluster performance Romelu Lukaku will be anxiously looking over his shoulder, as Divcock Origi impressed once again. It can be reasonably argued that had Christian Benteke not been injured he would have been the main striker and not Lukaku.