Saturday - Jul 22, 2017

World Cup Round Up- Day Six- Brazil lack of strike force begins to hit home


World Cup Round Up- Day Six- Brazil lack of strike force begins to hit home

In the first match in Day Six of the 2014 FIFA World Cup Belgium went to the top of Group H after coming back from behind to defeat Algeria in Belo Horizonte.

The Algerian side took a shock lead from the penalty spot in the 24th minute when Sofiane Feghouli was pulled down in the box by Jan Vertonghen. Feghouli picked himself up, brushed himself down and promptly slotted the penalty home, to end an unenviable run for Algeria of 506 minutes without scoring a goal in the World Cup finals.

Despite their advantage, Algeria were far from being the strongest side on the park, with the Belgians dominating possession, but finding it tough to get through the Algerian defense, despite having an aggressive striking partnership in Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku.

Despite having such a strong pairing up front, the best of Belgium’s early chances came from long distance, with Axel Witsel getting close to the target on two separate occasions.

In the second half Marc Wilmots, the Belgian manager, made three strategic substitutes, with the most significant being that of Manchester United’s Marouane Fellaini, who equalized with a typical looping header in the 70th minute, after having only been on the field for five minutes. With the Algerians tiring by the minute, the Belgians were looking for a winner, and as expected, it came on the break with Dries Mertens putting the final touches to a well worked move.

Fellaini came close to adding a third as the final whistle approached, however the Algerian goalkeeper Mbolhi pulled off a fine save to deny him.

Belgian goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois was happier than most as the final whistle blew, as yet succeeded in maintaining his record of never playing in a losing side for the his home country and has kept a clean sheet in the last 10 of his 18 international appearances.

The second match of the day was between host nation Brazil at the Estadio Castelao in Fortaleza and among the major South American thorns in their flesh, Mexico who has racked up an amazing seven wins, two draws and only four losses in the nation’s last thirteen meetings.

Before a ball was kicked at the Estadio Castelao, the hundreds of millions of people who had tuned in from all over the world were treated to a spectacle which is becoming much a symbol of this and every other World Cup, the Brazilian team, the backroom staff and the capacity crowd of more than 67,000 join together to sing the Brazilian national anthem with such tremendous force and passion. So moving was the occasion that Neymar broke down in tears.

Unfortunately the Brazilian passion seemed to fade as soon as the match got underway, with the host nation producing an even more unconvincing display than they did in the opening match against Croatia. Admittedly the Brazilians came up against a goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa with something to prove, as he is currently without a club side.

Amongst his catalogue of at least six world-class saves that Ochoa pulled out of the hat, the undoubted pick of the bunch was when he threw himself to his right to keep out a beautifully placed and powerful Neymar header that was on its way to the back of ball to safety. The global press have been waxing lyrical level ever since, going as far as to compare it to the legendary Gordon Banks of England’s save against a very similar Pele header in the 1970 World Cup.

What the media are also saying, is that the 2014 Brazil side has one major shortcoming, and that is the lack of a proper striker.

Luiz Felipe Scolari started the Croatian march with Fred and Hulk as his major strike force, although yesterday he chose to play Fred as his loan striker, to equally unimpressive results. Eventually Scolari substituted Fred for Jo, who did a little better, but was still far away from the quality of strikers who have played their part in winning the Mondial for Brazil in the past, such as Jairzinho in 1970, Romario in 1994 and Ronaldo in 2002.

Scolari will take confidence from the fact that Neymar and Oscar are still showing some particularly fine form as did it second-hand substitutes Williem and Bernard.

Brazil still seems very likely to go through as do Mexico, with today’s match between Croatia and Cameroon taking on a very special significance.

The last game of the day in Group H was between Fabio Capello’s Russia side and South Korea. The match ended in an uneventful 1-1 draw, with the Russian’s equalizer coming from Aleksandr Kerzhakov, who had been on the field for just three minutes after the South Koreans had taken the lead in the 68th minute after a speculative long-range shot from Lee Keun-ho was fumbled by goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev and rolled into the net.

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