Belgium has wrapped up top spot in Group H and a perfect recording leading into the Round of 16 at the 2014 World Cup, doing enough to beat South Korea 1-0; ending the Asian qualifiers’ campaign.
While mathematically still alive leading into their final Group match this morning, South Korea’s hopes of progression appeared a lost cause; needing to comfortably beat pool leaders Belgium and hope for a low scoring game in Group H’s other match between Algeria and Russia.
Missing captain and central defender Vincent Kompany who has been struggling with a groin niggle; Belgium immediately took it to the South Koreans, pressing forward with an energy-filled, relatively youthful line-up fielded by Manager Marc Wilmots.
Quickly settling into the match and maintaining the early barrage, Korea began to build momentum just seven minutes in and were denied two penalty shouts upon finding possession in the Belgian 18-yard box.
Continuing similar back-and-forth play for the next twenty minutes, each side was offered good opportunity to convert but appeared to lack the killer touch, maintaining a scoreless draw right up until the 45th minute, when Belgium suffered a huge blow in Steven Defour being sent from the pitch for stomping on Korea’s Kim Shinwook.
Returning from the break still locked in a scoreless draw Korea amped up the pressure on Belgium, pushing forward and allowing the Red Devils only occasional counters for the first ten minutes of play.
Arguably Korea’s best chance of the match to that point, Ki Sung Yueng delivered an exceptional strike in the 53rd minute, unluckily blazing wide of Courtois’ net.
Settling back into their rhythm, Belgium again pressed forward and began to create several excellent chances to convert, appearing not too far from finding the back of the net and the resulting lead.
Claiming the ball on half way, Marouane Fellaini completed a sensational solo run to find Belgium 5-on-4 attacking the Korean net. While an initial effort from Divock Origi was saved, a flying Jan Vertonghen was on hand to pump home the game’s opener, putting the Red Devils into the lead and all but securing top spot in Group H.
While continuing to press forward and throwing everything they had left at the Belgians, South Korea were unable to find the equalizer and had their fate sealed when Australian referee Ben Williams blew full time on a 1-0 victory to Belgium.
Claiming the first progression spot from Group H, Belgium will face the USA in the 2014 World Cup Round of 16 and are clear $1.83 favourites for success, while Algeria’s draw with Russia means they will also progress from Group H and are given little hope of further success when facing Germany on Tuesday morning AEST.