Last night United States fans were rejoicing over their team’s hard fought 2-1 win over Ghana, today it was the turn of Mexico, America’s southern neighbor, to celebrate a famous tie with mighty Brazil.
Mexico were heavy underdogs to the home team, but El Tri came out confidently in the games opening minutes. It did not take long though for the hosts to wrest control of the match from the visitors, and a Brazil goal began to feel increasingly likely.
But Mexico hung on, for dear life it seemed at times. Mexico played well and were the better team for a good portion of the second half. No, this was no park the bus effort from Mexican coach Miguel Herrera and his troops.
But El Tri needed something special to stay with Brazil at home, and they got that something from keeper Guillermo Ochoa. Ochoa earned the Man of the Match with a spectacular performance, frustrating Neymar with two great saves and stoning Thiago Silva on an 86th minute header to preserve a massive point for Mexico.
Belgium, everyone’s favorite World Cup dark horse got the fright of their lives from unrated Algeria, falling behind 1-0, before rallying late for a 2-1 win.
Belgium has a lineup loaded with players who earn their living in top leagues across Europe, but today Algeria’s star starved team gave them all they wanted.
From the opening kick Belgium dominated, but they were unable to unduly trouble Algerian netminder Rais M’Bolhi. Then when Algeria sprang a counter attack accomplished Belgian defender Jan Vertonghen was caught out of position and wound up conceding a foolish and obvious penalty when he brought down Sofiane Feghouli.
Feghouli, the nearest thing Algeria has to a star, calmly took his chance and Belgium were trailing after 24 minutes.
Belgium struggled to generate many real scoring chances, and when they did M’Bolhi was up to the challenge. Their frustrated coach Marc Wilmots brought on creative attacker Dries Mertens for a wasteful Nacer Chadli, a move that paid off with an 80th minute winner from the sub.
It was another sub that tied it for Belgium, Manchester United midfielder Marouane Fellaini. The Belgian midfielder endured a rough season at Old Trafford, but he gave his country a huge boost this afternoon with his 70th minute equalizer.
It was no surprise that the big man scored with his head, and it was also unsurprising when Belgium completed their comeback via Mertens and defeated game, but outmatched Algeria 2-1.
Russian manager Fabio Capello must have thought that he was having a flashback to 2010 as he watched his goalkeeper let a routine shot slip through his hands and make its way across the goalline.
But no, this was not 2010 in South Africa, that was not Rob Green in the goal, the keeper in question was Igor Akinfeev, and this was Brazil 2014, and Capello was in charge of Russia, not England.
Four years ago Green’s gaffe allowed the United States to draw level with Capello’s English side 1-1. This howler though put Russia in a 1-0 hole in the 68th minute against South Korea, in what had been shaping up as a fairly dull 0-0 encounter.
Korean substitute Lee Keun-Ho scored the goal just 12 minutes after entering the fray and he should be credited putting some power behind his long range shot.
Now with their backs to the wall Russia responded and just six minutes after falling behind Russia were level, and it through a substitute too.
Needing a goal Capello turned to veteran attacker Alexander Kerzhakov. Just three minutes after stepping onto the pitch Kerzhakov made a genius of Capello, scoring in the 74th minute from goalmouth scramble.
That would be all the scoring and if Capello flashes back to 2010, he may take comfort in remembering that his England team did manage to get out of its group.