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World Cup 2014
 

South Korea 0 Belgium 1: Highlights, key battles, and what this result means

Published on Jun 27, 2014 6:34 AM
 
Belgium's defender Jan Vertonghen (left) vies with South Korea's midfielder Ji Dong-Won during a Group H football match between South Korea and Belgium at the Corinthians Arena in Sao Paulo during the 2014 Fifa World Cup on June 26, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP

Belgium needed just one point to top Group H and earned three despite playing with 10 men for slightly more than a half. But even with (yet another) late goal from captain Jan Vertoghen, winning all three of their group stage matches, the Red Devils still haven't quite proven why they are labelled tournament dark horses.

Seven changes to the Belgium starting line-up meant the side were at times disjointed, while the South Koreans showed up with more hunger, knowing that they needed nothing less than a big win to go through.

Belgium grinded out another result thanks to their overall higher quality of players, including good showings by substitute Origi, but with the road even tougher from here, must show that they don't need to rely on substitutes or late goals.

Highlights

- The Taeguk Warriors knew they needed a win by a big margin, and showed it. Some neat work in midfield from Ki Sung-yueng and Koo Ja-cheol and Lee Chung Yong down the right earns them some half chances. But it is in the 29th minute that their first good chance came. A threatening long-range drive from Ki forces Thibaut Courtois to pull off a brilliant save that concedes a corner.

- The first corner leads to a second, which threatened to give the Asians an opener after a frantic scramble near the goal line. Courtois' effort is just about enough to keep it from crossing the line any further.

- Just before the half-time break, Porto midfielder Steven Defour is sent off on his World Cup 2014 debut after a mindless two-footed challenge (a near stamp, even) on Korean striker Kim Shin Wook.

- Couple of chances for both sides after the break, with Korean the more threatening of the two sides. Clearly made an effort to capitalise on their one-man advantage and kept Belgium on the back foot with spells of sustained pressure.
But Belgian's substitution makes a difference again. Belgian counter-attack through Divock Origi is parried away by Korean keeper Kim into the path of Vertoghen, who easily slots it home.

Key battles

Ki Sung-yueng/Koo Ja-cheol v Marouane Fellaini/Moussa Dembele
Fellaini and his frock wins the aerial battle, but Dembele was dismal today. Gave away too many easy balls to his midfield counterparts, who were crucial in helping South Korea create chances up front. The Asians fared much better today than their previous matches, but still lacked the sharp finishing.

Belgian attack v Korean defence
Having been criticised by their own coach Hong Myung-bo for sloppy work after their previous match, the Korean back four put up a better show today. Held their own in the face of an attack force that, while involved a big change in line-up, still involved names like Dries Mertens, Kevin Mirallas, Adnan Januzaj and Origi.
Granted, the Korean defence at times looked vulnerable, but held up much better.

Man of the match

Thibaut Courtois
Suffered some close shaves, but was arguably Belgium's busiest man of the night and did well to deter a side that had come to score more than a few.

Korean attack gained some bite especially in the second half after Lee Keun Ho came on, and Kim Shin Wook's height provided the side with more physical presence, but Courtois' clean sheet is well deserved.

What this result means

Belgium top Group H, winning all three group matches by grinding them out to claim the maximum nine points. They will meet USA in the round of 16.

The South Koreans go home, their loss completing what has been a dismal campaign for Asia. The continent are winless at a World Cup for the first time since 1990, with all four teams finishing bottom of their groups, and mustering just three points together.

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