By Robbie Blakeley, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Belgium finished top of World Cup Group H after a 1-0 win over South Korea at the Arena Corinthians yesterday (June 27th). Their hundred percent record in the group stages means they have set up a second round meeting with the USA, on Tuesday, July 1st, at the Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador.
Tottenham defender Jan Vertonghen scored the game’s only goal in the 78th minute to ensure the Belgians, tipped as one of the sides to watch at this year’s tournament, came through the group unscathed. That said, on yesterday’s evidence there is still room for improvement if the Europeans are to fully live up to their potential, with Korea missing several good chances to take something from the game, especially during an even first half.
Korea started the game strongly, Kim Younggwon blasting wide when in a good position before Thibaut Coutrois thwarted him again. Then slowly Belgium, who had made seven changes to their side, began to dominate in midfield and press forward in attack.
Dries Mertens missed a golden opportunity from close-range before forcing Korean stopper Kim Seunngyu into a fingertip save from a curling free-kick. But Belgium were reduced to ten men just before half-time when Steven Defour was given his marching orders following a dangerous tackle on Kim Shin-wook.
At half-time, Korea sent on a second striker in the form of Lee Keunho, sensing the game was there for the taking with their numerical advantage. He immediately got into the action, forcing Courtois into action before heading another chance over.
Twelve minutes from time Belgium scored the winning goal, when Kim Seunggyu could only push Divock Origi’s shot into the path of Vertonghen to convert. Game, set and match for Beglium, who will need to find greater cohesion against a USA side that have arguably been the surprise of the tournament to date.
* The Rio Times Daily Updates feature is offered to help keep you up-to-date with important news as it happens.