After a first half in which they were nervous, sleep walking, or both, Belgium awoke for the second 45 minutes and was able to overcome an early deficit and defeat Algeria 2-1. The Fennec Foxes defended vigorously throughout, but were ultimately unable to hold against Belgium’s dynamic attack.
The first half was surprisingly low-tempo, with Algeria allowing Belgium to possess and simply throwing as many bodies as possible behind the ball. The Belgians were unable to muster much in the attack, with many of their attempts missing the mark entirely and failing to test goalkeeper Rais M’Bolhi.
Belgium were caught on their heels in the 24th minute, and on an Algeria counter attack Belgium’s Jan Vertonghen pulled down Algeria winger Sofiane Feghouli inside the 18 yard box:
Feghouli stepped up to the spot, and coolly and confidently buried the PK:
Despite their advantage, Algeria really did not do much to try to seize control of the game. They continued to be passive, allowing Belgium to hold the ball for long stretches. The Belgians rarely tested M’Bolhi, though, seemingly comfortable with taking a deficit into halftime.
Apparently, there was some strategy involved in Belgium’s quiet first half, because they came out flying in the second. They continued to ramp up the pressure, and saw their attack immediately receive a shot of life when they replaced Romelu Lukaku with 19-year-old Divock Origi in the 58th minute. Origi’s disruptive speed began to unglue the Algeria defense, and when Belgium brought on lanky midfielder Marouane Fellaini in the 65th minute, the favored Red Devils finally broke through.
Kevin De Bruyne sent in a wonderful cross for Fellaini, an aerial specialist who flicked the ball home brilliantly:
Just 10 minutes later, Belgium took the lead when Eden Hazard broke down the left wing and played a well-timed pass across the top of the Algeria 18 to second half substitute Dries Mertens, who finished with authority past M’Bolhi:
Belgium successfully killed off the game from there, and apart from the penalty kick Algeria never threatened standout Belgian goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois. The win gives the highly-favored Red Devils an expected leg up over their Group H foes, whereas Algeria now face consecutive must-win games against South Korea and Russia.