Six of the best for Mexico
Korea Republic were unlucky not to get at least a share of the spoils when they went down 2-1 to Mexico in their Group F encounter yesterday (Saturday) evening.
The result will naturally delight the hordes of El Tricolor supporters who had seen their side humble Germany in their first outing and now leap to six points at the top of the log.
It wasn’t the greatest of games from a neutral’s point of view but what it lacked in class it made up for in intensity.
(It was also marred by me having to channel hop between the Springbok/England rugby test.)
Mexico scored in the 24th minute when Jang unintentially blocked Guardado’s cross with his arm and Carlos Velas duly dispatched the spot kick.
A terrific save by Hyun-Woo Cho prevented a second goal but it did arrive after the break when Javier Chicharito Hernandez made it 2-0.
Korea got a late one back in extra time: a curling long distance strike by Son Heung-min (Tottenham Hotspur), the goal of the game – one that gave Ochoa no chance.
Although they conceded a 2-1 result, that goal could play a big part in the possible group permutations as goal difference might determine the outcome.
Korea are not yet out of it, by a whisker. They wait anxiously for the imminent kick-off between Germany and Sweden.
They want a Germany win tonight (Saturday) and then in the last round would have to beat the Germans themselves, and pray for Mexico to beat Sweden.
Belgium bloom in the Garden of Eden
The Spartak Stadium was transformed into the Garden of Eden (Hazard) as the mercurial leader inspired a relentless Belgian side to a 5-2 win over plucky Tunisia. In Saturday’s Group G contest.
His brace, together with that of a rejuvenated Romelo Lukaku, provided wonderful entertainment for the packed venue and the worldwide audience of many millions.
Hazard made his mark as early as the fourth minute when he was brought down at the edge of the box. VAR confirmed the penalty and Hazard got up and duly dispatched the spot kick into the corner (1-0).
The lead doubled when Dries Mertens fed a super defence-splitting ball to Lukaku in the 15th minute and his sweet left-footed strike found the far corner (2-0).
Almost immediately Tunisia struck back as Dylan Bronn halved the deficit to 2-1 but Belgium rebounded and had their opponents’ box resembling a pinball machine with attack after attack.
Kevin de Bruyne, who was having far more impact than last time out, put Lukaku clear through in the 26th minute but he couldn’t beat keeper Farouk Ben Mustapha.
Tunisia were having little of the game but looked lively when they did move forward.
On half time de Bruyne broke right and slid the ball across the face of the goalmouth with Lukaku a fraction late in arriving.
Not to worry, seconds later he had his second as Simon Mignolet pushed a delightful through ball and the big man made it 3-1 at the break.
Regular service resumed
The teams were hardly back on the pitch when Hazard brought a through ball down on his chest, applied a delicate touch with his foot and ghosted past keeper Mustapha for a 4-1 score line.
They might have had a fistful more had a number of chances not struck the posts or been directed straight at defenders
As it was, Chelsea’s Michy Batshuayi did score in the 90th minute (5-1) for Belgium only for Tunisia’s Wahbi Khazri to pull one back in the 95th.
A seven-goal thriller, going one better than the 3-3 draw between Spain and Portugal on day two.
Even though Belgium had taken their collective foot off the pedal, they still freewheeled into the round of 16.
Tunisia, on the other hand, engaged reverse gear and will return from whence they came – but they had not tamely surrendered and have nothing of which to be ashamed.
Two goals against the mighty Belgians is not too shabby, Nigel.
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