South Korea vs Belgium match report World Cup 2014: Jan Vertonghen makes it three wins from three

South Korea 0 Belgium 1

Arena de Sao Paulo

They have revealed little across the course of the past few weeks to strike fear into the heart of United States, their second round opponents, but Belgium have certainly uncovered a new star.

All the talk as they arrived here was of their dazzling Premier League commodities: Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku and Adnan Januzaj. But for the third time in this tournament it was Lille’s relatively unknown 19-year-old substitute Divock Origi whose substitute’s contribution proved decisive. A key contribution against Algeria, the late goal against Russia and finally a stinging shot from him here, parried away for Jan Vertonghen to follow up and score, Origi has needed little time to make his mark from the bench. He has reason to demand more than a place there next time.

The South Koreans’ World Cup was not over. Even when Russia took their early lead against the Algerians, a 2-0 win would have seen them through. That kind of result should not have been within the bounds of possibility against a European nation who came into this tournament as the brilliant, young dark horse of their own continent. But Belgium once again failed to live up to that label.

 

They were sloppy and slack in possession in what developed into an even first half. Moussa Dembele’s error allowed Sunderland’s Ki Sung-yueng – the architect of the Korean game - to seize possession and deliver a shot from the edge of the penalty area which Thibaut Courtois did well to palm away to his right.

The Belgians gradually began to assume some control, with a side which included seven new faces from their last win over Russia – a sign that Marc Wilmots had the second round clash against the United States at Salvador in mind.

Divock Origi after the match Divock Origi after the match  

His players were presented with one of the stand-out goalscoring opportunities of the World Cup group stage when the Korean defenders played pinball with a Kevin Mirallas’ shot in the area, after the Everton striker collected from Marouane Fellaini’s knock-down header. But when the ball fell at the feet of Napoli’s Dries Mertens, he conspired to blast it over the bar.

There is an eccentric side to the South Koreans.  The nation’s huge interest in the sport has not translated into as high a technical component among the side as it ought to have done. And no-one has told goalkeeper, Kim Seung-gyu, that he is permitted to catch the ball, rather than launch spectacular punches at it. But Belgium still failed to make good on the class differential.

They did not supply Manchester United’s 19-year-old Januzaj, who became the second youngest player, after Northern Ireland’s Norman Whiteside, from the same club to play in a World Cup finals.

 

And the frustration with the deadlock seemingly contributed to the mindless decision by Porto’s Steven Defour, to go into a two-footed challenge on  Kim Shin-wook in the closing stages of the first half. Defour planted studs on Kim’s right leg and was justifiably dismissed.

Januzaj and Fellaini did get their chance to link up after the break. If the World Cup has done little for the international reputation of Lukaku, kept to the bench after two starts which did not even last an hour, it has provided a reminder of the strength Fellaini can bring. He flourished again in the advance No 8 role which his team-mates have been insisting for the past two weeks that David Moyes should have used him for. He had a strong penalty appeal when he had clipped Januzaj’s ball beyond Hong Jeong-ho and the defender clattered into him.

 

The loss of Defour did not cause the Belgians difficulties. But there was still a parity till  Vertonghen’s late strike. The influential Ki, who is on loan to Wearside from Swansea, floated a cross onto the top of bar, and Wilmots’ decision to withdraw Januzaj and Mertens  on the hour revealed his need for different options.

Then came the decisive goal, followed by Eden Hazard, another substitute, bursting  into the area and forcing another smart save from Kim Seung-gyu. Belgium have found an exciting new property.

The group stage has been characterised by a need to chop and change a side struggling for a rhythm..

Now they need more from the players we thought we knew all about.

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