Sunday’s last game at Manaus belonged to the amazing Americans, who were several notches superior to Portugal in quality football. They led 2-1 in the injury time until a sudden last-second header by Silvestre Varela blocked their passage into the round of 16. From Portugal’s viewpoint, the 2-2 draw allowed them a lifeline in the tournament. Earlier in the day, at a match played at the Maracana, Belgium also entered last eight by a late strike and 1-0 victory over Russia and later, Algeria, too registered themselves in the round of 16 after beating Korea 4-2 at Porto Alegre.
Except for a while in the beginning, the Portuguese could not take control, despite a higher percentage of ball possession. On most occasions, however, they ended up losing the ball to their brilliantly intercepting counterparts. Brilliant in flashes, the Portuguese had an otherwise poorly coordinated game, made worse by wrong passing at crucial junctures. The superbly athletic Americans, on the other hand, played a balanced game with pin-point passing. Portugal, however, took an early 5th minute lead brought about by a defensive error from USA’s Geoff Cameron. The ball touched his boot and went to Nani, who fired a stinging shot to leave the goalkeeper with no chance after his pre-determined commitment. But Portugal could not keep the momentum and many of their moves were foiled by US defenders. On their part, the USA played a clean eye-pleasing football and looked dangerous, whenever they approached the Portuguese territory. The teams went to the break with Portugal leading 1-0. After the break, Americans attacked Portugal and would have scored in the 55th minute, when the goalkeeper had left his post and Bradley only had one defender to beat. But Portuguese defender Ricardo Costa came in his way with a great clearance.
The Americans finally found the equalizer in the 64th minute, when Jermaine Jones came up with a stinging right-footer. After this while the pace of the game quickened, the Portuguese still kept losing their passes to the Americans. In a wonderfully crafted move in the 81st minute, Yedlin ran down the right flank and sent a pass to Bradley, who rifled a shot into the goal. However Zusi collected Beto’s block and found Dempsey nearby. Dempsey just chested the ball in and US went 2-1 in front. The lead continued until the 90-minute regulation time but 5 minutes of injury time were added. Just at the final whistle, Ronaldo managed an amazing cross for Varela to head the last-second equalizer that broke many an American hearts. Now USA needs a at least a draw against Germany to see them through in the last 16. If Portugal could beat Ghana, even a loss would be okay for USA since they will equal with Portugal and a better goal-difference could take them to the next round.
The first game between Belgium and Russia on Sunday at Maracana was an evenly matched affair between two teams, who couldn’t raise the quality of football. Playing a drab game, both sides made similar moves and erred on crunch times. The only sparkle in the game came in closing stages, when Belgium made a substitution to bring in 19-year old Divock Origi, who responded with a dramatic goal in the 88th minute. It was counter attack from Belgium led by Eden Hazard, who ran down left flank and finished with a low cross that found Origi. The teenager blasted a super shot into the goal to ensure that Belgium go into the round of 16, despite still having one league left against Korea in Sao Paulo on Friday.
In the second match on Sunday at Porto Alegre, Algeria and Korea played furious football in a constantly thrilling game, which saw Algeria beat Korea 4-2 to enter the last 16. For a brief period after the mid-way stage in the first-half, the Algerians ran amuck with 3 goals in 12 minutes to shock the Koreans. In the 26th mnute, Islam Slimani collected a long pass and stormed into the penalty area and finished by lobbing over the head of the forward-rushing Korean goalkeeper. In 28th minute, Algeria went 2-0 ahead when Rafik Halliche scored from a fine header from corner kick. The third goal came from Abdelmoumene Djabou, who was fed by Slimani. Djabou produced a delicate shot. Koreans reduced the deficit in 49th minute, when Son Heung-min, scored through the legs of Algerian keeper. Algeria made in 4-1 in the 62nd minute, when Brahimi scored from a pass by Slimani. The Koreans cut the lead again, when a 72nd minute shot from Son was blocked. Lee collected the rebound and passed it to his captain Koo to net Korea’s second goal.
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