Sunday, 22 June 2014

Brazil WC 2014, Belgium vs Russia - LIVE COMMENTARY:

Hello again everyone and welcome to my latest blog post, with a LIVE Commentary of the Group H match between Belgium and Russia.

Both teams will be aiming for a win at the Maracana stadium today; a win would virtually secure a Last 16 place for the Belgians while former England manager Fabio Capello will be hoping that his side can improve on their 1-1 draw with South Korea in their opening match to beat the group's outright favourites and impressive outfit Belgium.

16:25 - And here are the team line-ups for the match:

Belgium: Courtois, Alderweireld, Van Buyten, Kompany, Vermaelen (Vertonghen 30'), Witsel, Fellaini, De Bruyne, Hazard, Mertens (Mirallas 74') and Lukaku (Origi 56'). 

Subs not used: Mignolet, Bossut, Defour, Lombaerts, Dembele, Januzaj, Vanden Borre, Chadli and Ciman.

Russia: Akinfeev, Kozlov (Yeshchenko 61'), Berezutski, Ignashevich, Kombarov, Glushakov, Fayzulin, Samedov, Shatov (Dzagoev 83'), Kanunnikov and Kokorin.

Subs not used: Lodygin, Schennikov, Semyonov, Denisov, Dzagoev, Kerzhakov, Granat, Mogilevets, Ryzhikov, Zhirkov and Ionov.

16:35 - Belgium were slow-starters in their opening game against Algeria, but really got going in the second-half. They will be eager to start well from the first whistle today if they are to cement their position early on and break the deadlock against a weak Russian side.

16:40 - Russia however are a traditionally powerful side with the likes of Berezutski and Ignashevich in defence, if they play well then do not expect any early goals in this match. 

16:45 - I did not cover that particular match (Russia vs South Korea) last week, but it was a 1-1 draw.

CSKA Moscow goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev will be hoping that he does not make any mistakes like he did in the opener, where South Korea's goal was partially his fault - fumbled the ball out of his hands from a long-range effort. 

16:50 - Tottenham trio Dembele, Vertonghen and Chadli are all on the substitutes bench for Belgium, and Hazard plays despite having a bruised foot.

16:52 - Lukaku was kept quiet by the Algerian defence, did not have a touch in the opposite half.

16:58 - National anthems are completed, and it's time for the match to start.  

17:00 - Belgium kick-off the first-half of action at the Maracana Stadium, a big ground with lots of expectation for a good match today.

2: Belgium are exposed on the counter attack after their corner kick is well defended by Russia; but the referee pulls the play back as Samedov seems to have picked up a knock in a clash with Arsenal defender Thomas Vermaelen - who struggled in the warm-up with a knock before the game today, but starts today.

3: Mertens has a shot blocked in the area as the Belgians get forward well but the attempted effort is halted by Russia.

6: Belgium eager to settle in the game, Russia doing well to try and push them back into their own half. 

7: Fellaini looks to be playing in an attacking midfield role today; Witsel sitting behind him. Russia will not be expected to really test Belgium today.

8: Alderweireld with a naughty foul near the centre circle, albeit accidental as he raises his leg high in the air and catches his opponent. Russia free-kick.

9: Sloppy defending by Russia is almost taken advantage of, Hazard attempts to get forward, before passing the ball backwards - which eventually flies high into the path of Akinfeev who fails to see the lurking shadow of Fellaini next to him as he quickly punches away, but the Manchester United midfielder was offside. 

10: Napoli creative midfielder Dries Mertens has been lively as of yet for Belgium, making good runs on the flank and getting in-behind the Russian defence. 

11: CHANCE! Belgian defence is static for a few seconds and they are almost behind, as Fayzulin has a low strike towards goal on the edge of the area well parried away by goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois. Good save, corner for Russia.

12: Russian corner comes of nothing, which is a shame - there was some potential there.

13: Good attacking run towards the edge of the area sees De Bruyne square the ball out wide to Mertens, he runs onto the pass and crosses low into the box for Lukaku, who fails to latch onto the delivery as Russia clear.

14: Lukaku needs to move into position a bit more if he wants to be effective as a floating striker, his movements so far have been predictable to snuff out by the Russians and he has been relatively quiet again in the opening 15 minutes or so. 

17: Curling through ball into the area by Alderweireld teases the runs of Lukaku and Fellaini at the far post, but the inviting cross into the box is too powerful and the ball goes out of play.

19: Russia lose the ball and Mertens goes on the charge after a pass from Fellaini near the half-way line. He beats two players who back towards their goal and give him the space to shoot - but his effort swerves wide of the post and Akinfeev watches it hit the advertising boards on the way out. 

21: Mertens goes on the attack again, he controls the ball well near the edge of the area from a diagonal ball across towards him, before running at his defender and having an effort on-goal as there are no Belgian team-mates in sight to pass to.

The shot spins over the bar and across goal, but it just shows how quickly he can counter with the ball at his feet. 

23: A clash of heads in an aerial challenge between Alderweireld and Kanunnikov results in both players falling to ground, as the referee temporarily stops play.

24: Good defending by Kanunnikov as he spots the danger and clears away with a last-gasp challenge as Mertens gets past his marker on the edge of the area but is denied with a perfectly-timed sliding tackle. 

30: Belgium SUB - 
Thomas Vermaelen (injury) OFF
Jan Vertonghen ON

31: Vermaelen is replaced in a like-for-like substitution for Vertonghen, and it appears as though he is struggling with a hamstring injury of some sort. 

He looks distraught as he walks down the tunnel, he was injured during the warm-up and this is the end of his game today. Unfortunate for the Arsenal defender.

35: 10 minutes plus stoppages at the end of the first-half and it's still 0-0. The game seems to have lost any form of edge (if it did have one at the start)

37: First yellow card of the match goes to Russia's Denis Glushakov after he attempts to win the ball in the air but instead catches Mertens' hand.

Belgium free-kick near the centre circle, getting players forward. 

38: Russia push Belgium back towards their own half as the danger is averted for another time, the Belgians pass the ball around in midfield but find no space for a killer pass into the area.

43: The Russians go close to goal twice, from a corner and a half-chance - but Courtois is equal to the danger.

45: The fourth official has signalled for just the 1 minute of stoppage time to be played. 

Belgium 0 Russia 0
A goal-less scoreline at half-time, as a tame first-half comes to an end after an interesting spell of Belgian pressure in the first 10 minutes or so. 

Almost a carbon-copy of the Belgium vs Algeria first-half, potential but nothing really exciting in the first 45. Things can only get better, surely?

18:03 - The second-half has begun, no substitutions for either side though.

47: Chelsea striker Romelu Lukaku is being watched today by many, the 21-year-old Belgian has a lot of potential but so far has failed to live up to expectations at the World Cup, which is slightly unfair given the lack of chances that he has had - but he needs to do well and confuse the opposition defenders with his movement, pace and strength; all of which is currently lacking.

49: Witsel goes down under the challenge in the air, and the referee watches for a moment before deciding to call upon the physio to treat the Zenit midfielder.

51: It seems as though he has fallen on his elbow, and although he has received treatment, he looks to have shaken it off and is back on the field of play. 

53: Russia get the ball forward and have a half-chance which spins over the bar as a poor decision from Glushakov to shoot on the edge of the area means that Belgium can get forward. 

54: Accidental push by Witsel, as he brings down Shatov, unable to stop running quick enough and avoid colliding with the Russian midfielder. The referee adjudges the challenge to be on purpose to stop a potential breakaway, and gives Witsel a yellow card.

55: Harsh decision by the referee there.

56: Lukaku looks unhappy again, as Belgium prepare to substitute him: 

Belgium SUB - 
Romelu Lukaku OFF
Divock Origi ON

57: The pace and the power of Origi replaces a muted Lukaku, who has failed to impress again today. A real shame, but time for the 19-year-old youngster to come on and show his quality, as he did against Algeria in his cameo appearance.

59: Origi goes down in the penalty area under pressure from defender Ignashevich on the counter attack, but no penalty given. The youngster went down too easily, according to the referee.

61: Russia SUB - 
Aleksei Kozlov OFF
Andrei Yeshchenko ON 

65: A dull second-half as of yet, screaming for a moment of magic from both teams. Both sides should be going for the win, surely? 

66: Russia have the ball in the Belgium half, under no pressure and clear space to run into. And guess what they do? Lose the ball. 

68: Manchester United youngster Adnan Januzaj is reportedly getting warmed up and ready to come on for Belgium.

69: Now the boos and jeers have started to sound inside the stadium, no-one expected a 0-0 after 70 minutes of play. Especially when the "dark horses" Belgium are involved.

70: Good defending by Bayern's Van Buyten - who chases back into the area to block the oncoming run from Shatov. Corner. 

71: Corner comes of nothing as Belgium clear, before Hazard is penalized for a late challenge and Russia have a free-kick, 30 yards out. 

72: The set-piece is promising, but the resulting header from defender Ignashevich is over the bar. Goal-kick to come.

73: Yellow card is given to Alderweireld, as he slides in late on Kanunnikov near the touchline.

74: Belgium SUB -
Dries Mertens OFF
Kevin Mirallas ON

75: Everton forward Kevin Mirallas is given 15 minutes to show what he can do in the side today; having struggled with injury towards the end of the season in the Premier League, he is arguably lucky to be in Rio and was a serious doubt to play for the Belgians this summer. 

76: Dries Mertens was the best player without a doubt for Belgium in the first-half, but he has been quiet in the second period and has not seen much of the ball at all. Well played nonetheless.

77: Take nothing away from Belgium, they are a good squad with lots of talent - but they have not shown why they are one of the dark horses today. If anything, Russia have looked the more lively in the second-half today.

78: I still think it's harsh to judge Lukaku on his bit-part performances in the World Cup so far, the majority of the Belgium team have not played well today so it's unfair to pinpoint him as the standout failure.

Still has a lot of potential, just needs time, nurturing and patience. Whether that is at Chelsea or not.

79: A temporary stoppage in play as Ignashevich is struggling with cramp, and is being treated by team-mate and goalkeeper Akinfeev.

80: CHANCE! And the first real chance of the second-half, courtesy of Russia. 

They play the ball around well and eventually the ball falls into the path of substitute Yeschenko on the edge of the area, he drags his low but powerful shot towards goal - Courtois is rooted to the spot and can only watch as it spins just wide of the post. 

81: That should be a warning to Belgium, surprised that Russia were not attacking like this from the start though.

82: Belgium win a free-kick in a dangerous position after a handball on the edge of the box, meanwhile Russia are preparing a substitution, with attacking midfielder Alan Dzagoev receiving instructions from his coach on the touchline as he waits patiently to come on.

83: And here is the substitution - 
Oleg Shatov OFF
Alan Dzagoev ON

84: OFF THE POST! Belgium almost break the deadlock thanks to substitute Kevin Mirallas from the free-kick! 

Mirallas has a low, powerful shot misleading the Russian wall as Akinfeev is wrong-footed and dives towards his right to save it, but Mirallas' effort hits the post and bounces back off as Russia clear.

85: Good work by Hazard on the flank, to beat two defenders in a tight space before shaping to shoot - but his resulting shot is just wide. Close from the Chelsea winger. 

87: GOAL! Belgium leave it late again, but they are ahead! Good play by Hazard to beat his markers again on the flank before a simple cut-back towards the path of young striker Divock Origi is clinically finished into the top corner of the net. 

88: 1-0 to Belgium, and the last 5 minutes or so have arguably been the most exciting of the match so far. A late finish, to a boring match in fairness. 

Credit has to go to Chelsea winger Eden Hazard, who has been dangerous on the flank in the last 10 minutes or so. He has come alive, thanks to some silky footwork and an assist for the goal from Origi.

89: Russia SUB - 
Alexander Samedov OFF
Aleksandr Kerzhakov ON

90: The fourth official signals for 3 minutes of stoppage time on the electronic board, as Belgium win a corner out of nothing and hold the ball in the Russian half. 

90+2: Belgium use the time-wasting tactics as the clock winds down. 

90+3: The referee blows his whistle to end the match. Belgium leave it late, but are officially through to the Last 16 after a narrow 1-0 win over Russia!

Substitute Origi with a goal in the 87th minute, and Russia now need to ensure that they beat Algeria and hope that other results go their way if they are to progress through to the knock-out rounds.

Origi broke the deadlock in the dying minutes as Belgium turned on in the last 10 minutes or so
Close call: Origi celebrates with playmaker Hazard, who assisted his first goal in a World Cup.
We're through! Belgium celebrate with the supporters after Origi's opener in the 87th minute
Here are the qualified and eliminated teams so far in the competition, after 10 days of action - 

Qualified - Netherlands, Chile, Argentina, Costa Rica, Colombia and Belgium.

Eliminated - England, Spain, Cameroon, Bosnia and Australia.

I should be back with another LIVE Commentary soon, so stay up-to-date with the blog as the World Cup continues to surprise!

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