I knew jumping on the Belgian bandwagon would lead to no good at all. Here we are, three games in, and the Red Devils are facing a second round elimination match against the good old US of A. Talk about being careful what you wish for!
If you’re a US fan, there are two ways to look at this one: so far the Belgians have looked nothing like the freewheeling world-beaters they were built up to be. Either this is who they are (at least for this World Cup), and beating them is an eminently achievable goal, or they’re about to wake up and rain holy hell on anyone who dares challenge them. Oh yes, I almost forgot: despite their lackluster play, they’re one of only four teams to have collected all possible 9 points in the group stage. True, the competition hasn’t been stellar, but still. These guys find ways to win, even when they have already qualified, down a man, and facing a desperate opponent.
I can’t say much about this last game, because I wasn’t really able to watch much of it. I spent the first half commuting home from work (big ups to Metro North for the crappy cell reception and Verizon Wireless for their outdated data pricing structure), and the second half fighting against a cranky router.
I will admit that even when I was able to log on to Univision (where you can see every single game for free, until you can’t, which is 8 games from now), I found myself flipping over to the far more interesting match in the group, Algeria versus Russia. I’ll have more to say about the Algerians in my next post; suffice it to say that both teams were playing for the right to advance, and the “plucky underdog versus country ruled by a shirtless madman” storyline was much more appealing.
So I’ll tell you what you probably already know: barring a loss to Korea and a goal-scoring barrage by Algeria, Belgium was guaranteed the top spot in the group and they played like it, especially after Steven Defour was sent off late in the first half after he tried to amputate a Korean player’s foot. Coach Marc Wilmots didn’t help matters by resting several of his best players (including offensive mastermind Eden Hazard).South Korea, needing a win to secure safe passage into round 2, tried to take control of this game but was unable to create much danger for keeper Thibaut Courtois. After a boring first half, the match improved somewhat, but it took until 10 minutes from time for Belgium to finally get on the board, as defenseman Jan Vertonghen tapped in a rebound of super-sub Divock Origi’s shot on goal. Yes, a member of the starting 11 finally scored a goal for Belgium, 260 minutes into the tournament. Well done, guys.
So here we are: Belgium now plays a US team that knows a little bit about winning games they have no business winning (have a safe flight home, Ghana). It all comes down to next Tuesday July 1st, in lovely Salvador. After that game is over, one of two things will happen: either the Belgian Waffles series will come to an untimely end, or my second favorite team will be sent home. They never said World Cup blogging would be easy.
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