Group H, Match 1
World Cup dark horses Belgium bounced back from going a goal behind to beat Algeria2-1 in their opener on Tuesday, reports Goal.com.
After being left stunned by Sofiane Feghouli's first-half penalty, Belgium coach Marc Wilmots made two tactical changes that paid dividends as substitutes Marouane Fellaini and Dries Mertens both found the net to secure victory in Belo Horizonte on Tuesday.
Having missed the past two global showpieces, Belgium were caught flat-footed as Feghouli gave Algeria a surprise 25th-minute lead.
The 24-year-old was hauled down by Jan Vertonghen as they stretched for a left-wing cross and Feghouli punished him by sending Thibaut Courtois the wrong way with his spot-kick.
Victory was assured with 10 minutes to play when Mertens capped a flowing move, the Napoli midfielder lashing the ball past Rais M'Bolhi.
A cautious start from both sides saw the game bereft of early chances, with Belgium dominating possession and Algeria restricted to breaks on the counter attack.
M'Bolhi was the first to be forced to make a save in the 21st minute as Belgian playmaker Axel Witsel unleashed a powerful strike from 20 yards, but the goalkeeper was equal to it and made a good stop.
Three minutes later, Algeria were gifted the lead as Faouzi Ghoulam raced down the left-hand side unopposed and delivered a perfect cross to the back post that Feghouli looked to get onto.
However, Vertonghen pulled him back inside the penalty area as the Valencia winger stretched every sinew to reach the ball.
Referee Marco Rodriguez had no hesitation in pointing to the spot, with the Tottenham defender booked for his crude tackle. Feghouli duly rolled the ball calmly into the back of the net.
Belgium resumed their control of possession after the goal and Witsel tested M'Bolhi again with 10 minutes of the half remaining, but the 28-year-old was able to parry the shot away.
Wilmots introduced Mertens at half-time in an attempt to lift his team going forward, and it nearly had an immediate impact as he delivered a corner that Witsel headed over at the back post.
Eventually Belgium's pressure forced a leveller, though, as Wilmots' third sub, Fellaini, restored parity with 20 minutes remaining.
Kevin De Bruyne, who had been very quiet up to that point, found room on the left and whipped in a cross to the near post for the Manchester United midfielder.
Fellaini was able to get himself in front of his marker and sent a flicked header crashing off the crossbar and into the back of the net.
Mertens then ensured Wilmots will be lauded as a tactical genius in the 80th minute after a lightning-quick break from Eden Hazard led to the winner.
The Chelsea man drew two defenders before finding his team-mate and Mertens made no mistake.
Algeria's late throw was cleared well and their gamble to sit on a one-goal lead has failed. Marouane Fellaini and Dries Mertens ensure Wilmots' men are up and running.
90` + 4` FULL-TIME: BELGIUM 2-1 ALGERIA
90` + 2` Belgium are now looking to see out the game with some old-fashioned corner flag keep-ball but it breaks down. A minute left of injury time and Belgium have some defending to do.
90` We're into injury time now and Belgium look to have done enough. Barring any late drama, Wilmots' men will make a winning start in Brazil.
88` Time running out for Algeria and Belgium continue to stretch their opponents. Fellaini could have had a second but he stumbles inside the area after Origi played him in. Fellaini has made such a big difference to Belgium since coming on.
85` FELLAINI SO CLOSE - Another header from the Belgian but this time it's tipped over the bar by M'Bolhi.
84` Substitution: Carl Medjani out, Nabil Ghilas in.
84` Halilhodzic looks gutted on the sidelines but they had it coming. Algeria have sat back and invited pressure for much of the second half.
81` De Bruyne challenges Feghouli and from there Belgium break with rapid speed. Hazard feeds Mertens who puts his country on top for the first time in the match with a fierce finish at the near post. Mertens has deserved his goal and Algeria must be more adventurous now.
80` Assist Eden Hazard
80` Goal Dries Mertens
80` 2-1 TO BELGIUM - MERTENS FIRES HOME!!!
77` We're approaching the last 10 minutes and Belgium are pressing hard for the winner. Fellaini almost playing as a striker alongside Origi and it's paid dividends so far.
75` De Bruyne and Fellaini almost link again but the latter is offside from a cross. He looks set to play a key role for Belgium in the last 15 or so minutes.
73` All the talk was about Belgium's flair players in the forward line but it's the imposing central midfielder who makes the difference. Off the bench, he's hauled his country level and has Wilmots' sprinting down the touchline with joy!
72` Substitution: Riyad Mahrez out, Lacen in.
70` Assist Kevin De Bruyne
70` Goal Marouane Fellaini
70` FELLAINI LEVELS - The Manchester United man makes it 1-1!
69` The pacey Islam Slimani will ask a few questions of Belgium's defence but Kompany deals with his first foray down the right. At the other end Mertens' delivery is dealt with.
68` Belgium ramping up the pressure here and Origi sees an effort saved when slipped through on goal. Can Algeria hang on?
66` Substitution: E. Soudani out, Slimani Islam in.
65` Substitution: Mousa Dembele out, Marouane Fellaini in.
65` Dembele makes way for Fellaini in what is the final change for Belgium. Are they set to go more direct in the latter stages?
63` Algeria are keeping the ball well and making Belgium's defence move around a bit. It's all adding to the frustration of Wilmots and co.
60` HALF AN HOUR TO GO - Can Belgium break down Algeria in the final 30 minutes. The Algerian defence is so deep now that it could take something special to level the scores. Will any of Belgium's forward players be able to conjur anything up?
59` Origi replaces Lukaku up front. The 19-year-old from Lille will lead the line for Belgium now in what looks a surprise move. Lukaku has been quiet in this game but was in fine form during their World Cup friendlies.
58` Substitution: Romelu Lukaku out, Divock Origi in.
57` SO CLOSE TO A SECOND - Carl Medjani glances a header wide from a corner. A reminder of Algeria's threat as they go so close to doubling their advantage.
55` Still nothing doing however, while Belgium haven't taken advantage of their skilful individials, they have also struggled to dominate aerially - even with the likes of Kompany and Van Buyten wandering up for set-pieces.
54` Mertens really has made a difference and he'll fling in another delivery here from the right.
53` Courtois almost lingers too long on a backpass but other than that, Belgium have been dominant since the break.
51` Hazard and Mehdi Mostefa go down after a late tackle from the Algerian defender. Looked a painful collision but they're both back on their feet soon after.
50` DANGEROUS! Mertens' delivery finds an unmarked Witsel at the far post. However, he can't adjust his body sufficiently and plants his header over the bar. Better stuff from the Belgians and Wilmots will be pleased with their start to the second half.
49` Belgium are playing with more purpose already, with Dembele striding through central midfield and helping Belgium win a corner. What can Mertens conjur up?
46` Substitution: Nacer Chadli out, Dries Mertens in.
Feghouli's penalty separates the sides at the break and Belgium now know they will need to demonstrate their attacking quality if they are to break down stubborn opposition in the second half. Wilmots' men have been frustrated for long spells but, with the likes of Hazard, De Bruyne and Chadli, I wouldn't write them off just yet.
45` + 2` HALF-TIME: Belgium 0-1 Algeria
45` Hazard and Chadli finally get behind Algeria but can't find a way past M'Bohli. The Chelsea man then delivers across the six-yard box shortly after but there are no takers. Playing like this, Belgium won't want half-time to come.
43` A lspell of pressure from Belgium but the Algerian defence refuses to buckle. Chadli is the latest to shoot from distance and, as with previous shots, it sails off target.
40` Vertonghen looks to make amends for his earlier foul but hits it high and wide - that sums up his half in many respects. What will Wilmots have on his mind ahead of the half-time break?
39` Alderweireld is fouled as he goes to shoot. Can they muster something from the free-kick? De Bruyne and Vertonghen standing over it...
37` FRUSTRATIONS CONTINUE FOR BELGIUM - They've been given no time on the ball by Algeria and have been punished for their one slip-up. An equaliser before half-time would certainly ease Belgian worries however.
34` Yellow Card Nabil Bentaleb
33` His corner sails over everyone and Mahrez is fouled on the break - more frustration for Belgium.
32` CORNER TO BELGIUM - De Bruyne looking dangerous again as he weaves through Algeria's defence to win a corner.
31` De Bruyne's free-kick goes high and wide although he doesn't seem happy with the Algerian wall. Looks to be suggesting there was some encroachment.
30` STAT - Sofiane Feghouli is the first player to score for Algeria at the World Cup since Djamel Zidane on June, 3rd 1986.
28` Mousa Dembele looks to threaten an equaliser but his strike from outside the area is weak and drifts harmlessly wide.
26` Algeria's first dangerous foray into Belgium's half and it sees Vertonghen caught out by a combination of a dangerous cross from the left and the pacey Feghouli. Can Wilmots' men draw level before the break?
25` Penalty Goal Sofiane Feghouli
GOOOOAAALLLL - The Valencia man sends Courtois the wrong way and calmly puts Algeria in front.
24` Yellow Card Jan Vertonghen
24` PENALTY TO ALGERIA - Vertonghen brings down Feghouli...
21` GREAT HIT - Axel Witsel fires an effort from distance but Rais M'Bohli is equal to it. Far too much space afforded to the Zenit man
19` Van Buyten's in action at the other end shortly after as Islam Slimani robs him of possession and finds himself through on goal. The Sporting man fires into the side netting however.
18` EFFORT FROM DISTANCE - Van Buyten given plenty of space to wander into and he goes for goal from distance but it's deflected out for a throw in.
16` Conversely, Halilhodzic suggested Belgium could be vulnerable at the back. However, Taider and Feghouli have not yet been able to test Kompany and Van Buyten sufficiently.
14` Belgium skipper Vincent Kompany said the game would be "like a chess match" in the build-up and, as yet, he's not been far off. Both sides are matching one another well here - can one of Wilmots' attacking gems create something special to break the deadlock?
11` Feghouli looks to go long for Soudani but it's overhit. Plenty of attacking intent from both teams early on but no real chances of note.
9` Looks as though Belgium are beginning to find their feet after a slow start - De Bruyne, Hazard and Chadli searching for an opening but the Algerian defence stands firm.
6` Hazard and De Bruyne link down the right but the Wolfsburg man can't keep the ball in play.
4` Belgium not having it all their own way early on as Algeria look to stifle the creativity among their opposing front line. Halilhodzic will be pleased with this...
2` Early free-kick as Daniel Van Buyten fouls El Arbi Hillel Soudani but Algeria waste the delivery.
ALGERIA SUBSTITUTES: Si Mohammed, Zemmamouche, Belkalem, Mesbah, Yebda, Lacen, Ghilas, Brahimi, Slimani, Cadamuro, Djabou, Mandi
ALGERIA STARTING XI: Rais, Bougherra, Ghoulam, Halliche, Feghouli, Medjani, Bentaleb, Soudani, Taider, Mahrez, Mostefa
BELGIUM SUBSTITUTES: Mignolet, Bossut, Vermaelen, Lombaerts, Vanden Borre, Ciman, Fellaini, Defour, Januzaj, Mirallas, Mertens, Origi
BELGIUM STARTING XI: Courtois, Alderweireld, Van Buyten, Kompany, Vertonghen, Witsel, Dembele, De Bruyne, Hazard, Chadli, Lukaku
Commentary & Report: Goal dot com