Play by play

FT: Belgium 2 – 1 Algeria || WHEW. Adrian Healey says, for Belgium, this victory “tastes as sweet as Belgian chocolate.” I can’t confirm this. I can, however, confirm that over the 90 minutes, Belgium created the better chances against a quality, stingy Algerian defense. At the end of day, the dark horse rides on. Are you already tired of hearing about “dark horses”? Just me? OK.

Here’s a final shot from Belgium’s deputy PM and foreign affairs minister. It seems that everyone in Belgium is on the street. On this specific street. Good day to you.

The Belgians have just been killing the clock . What a turn of events: from “Oh noes, we’re going to lose! Dark horses can’t lose!” to “Yay! Of course we were going to win!” Only seconds left.

While the kids celebrate, Belgium’s coaching staff gets freak-ay! That’s Marc Wilmots, the coach. Does he look like a man who was in the Belgian Senate? Senators are not supposed to act like that.

Fellaini locates a few of the 13 Belgian fans and strikes his best Michael Jackson pose.

#goldabelgica #reddevils #belgianreddevils #gopro #hero3plus

A photo posted by Bruno Bezerra (@bbezerra84) on

Algerian substitute Nabil Ghilas … I hope soccer works out for him, because my mother told me that no one would hire me with hair like that. But this was before Game of Thrones. He replaces Algerian Carl. 

This was the scene on the streets of Astoria, Queens (as in NYC) after the Algeria goal. A friend of mine sent me this. Note the flares. This is the type of place you need to go to watch your soccer. Although I don’t imagine they’re celebrating like this right now.

Bentaleb wiggles through a few Belgian players and is eventually caught by a brilliant tackle from De Bruyne. The ball squirts out the other way and finds Hazard. Remember him? He takes off streaking through the middle of the Algerian defense and plays a gorgeous through ball to his right, to another substitute, Dries Mertens, who smashes the ball straight past the once again helpless M’Bolhi. Cue wild celebrations. It’s 2-1 Belgium. The substitutes have saved the day, with a little help from De Bruyne and Hazard.

REWIND: As we learned from Friday Night Lights: “Big Hair, Big Hearts, Can’t Lose, But Maybe You Can Draw?” Something like that.

Two minutes ago this fan was a genius. Now, he’s a liar. A damn liar. Can’t take this guy anywhere.

Substitute Marouane Fellaini, who couldn’t do anything right for Manchester United, gets on a De Bruyne cross and flicks the ball off of his lovely, massive afro past a helpless M’Bolhi. The Belgians have equalized! It’s 1-1 and Fellaini be like …

Divock Origi takes a terrific low-driven shot from outside the box that’s turned away by M’Bolhi. Would Lukaku have finished that if he was still on? A better question is, was Lukaku ever really on?

Mousa Dembélé comes off for Manchester United’s Marouane Fellaini. Fellaini will fit right in.

Belgium’s Jan Vertonghen, recipient of the first yellow of the game, which led to Algeria’s penalty, for some reason just decided to hack down an Algerian player on the sideline. It was completely unnecessary. Maybe he wants to join Mr. Pepe and Mr. Palacios at the red card party. It looks like he wants to be on the VIP list.

REWIND: Off the corner, Algeria’s Carl Medjani nearly doubles the lead. I wonder how many Carls there are in Algeria. I can’t imagine there are more than seven.

Belgium’s 19-year-old Divock Origi comes on for Romelu Lukaku. Origi has played three times for Belgium. THREE. TIMES. This is a kind of shocking development. Well, it would be if Lukaku had done anything in his 58 minutes of action today. A poor performance from the generally very talented Belgian.

Algerian fans know—every little bit helps.

It’s nice to see fans getting along, especially given Belgium’s history in Africa. King Leopold II would not be pleased with this development.

Most of the action so far is in the Algerian half. We’re treated to Mehdi Mostefa and Hazard colliding, just over the midfield line in the Algerian half. There wasn’t much malice involved, and Mostefa stayed down for a bit. Was this tactical? I’m not sure, but repeatedly running into Hazard may pay off as the game progresses.

Belgian substitute Mertens takes a corner and finds Axel Witsel—possibly named after Eddie Murphy’s character in Beverly Hills Cop—on the back post. The ball seemed to head Witsel instead of Witsel heading the ball. It ricocheted off his head and out for a goal kick. A great chance for the Red Devils. Witsel will remember that one if Belgium don’t find a way to win this game.

This isn’t the only way to compare teams, but comparing the transfer value of two teams does give you one way to contrast personnel.

The second half begins with Belgium bringing on Dries Mertens for Nacer Chadli.

Here’s another, more palatable little factoid. Ignore that Belgium hasn’t been in a World Cup since 2002. I’m no fan of these facts because they tell me nothing. But I share it with you with the understanding that other people are entitled to enjoy things I don’t enjoy.

So Alex Witsel is more despised than Marc Dutroux, a Belgian serial killer and child molester who kidnapped, tortured, sexually abused and murdered girls in the mid-1990s? Think Belgian’s don’t care about soccer? This is exactly why we can’t have nice things, Belgium. If you want to see the foul in question, here you go. BUT WARNING: It is terrifying. And horrible. I’m serious. Do not watch this if you have a weak stomach.

Want to hear something crazy about Belgium’s Axel Witsel?

HT: Belgium 0 – 1 Algeria || Someone sent us the GIF below to describe the first half. For a team with as much attacking talent as Belgium, they certainly weren’t very impressive against a team that most had them walking over. Maybe they spent to much time working on that Stomae video and not enough time practicing. Algeria, however, can be pleased after the first 45 minutes. If they can hold onto this lead—against, in theory, the toughest team in the group—they could really possibly sneak into the second round. That would be astonishing.

Algeria have been doing a phenomenal job of closing down the Belgian attackers when the ball is played from deep into a checking Belgian player’s feet. There’s always an Algerian in the respective pockets of Belgian players. The gaps are opening up for Belgium when they can play balls between the gaps in the Algerian back four and have runners already going to goal. We’ve seen glimpses of this, in between the hacking and jeering.

I’m not sure that this shot came through on the ESPN feed, but here’s a shot of the Algeria players celebrating. Maybe this will be part of a #ConspiracyTalk segment later. Maybe not.

Please keep this in mind. It’s never too early to dream about the knockout stages. Everyone wants Barry v Vlad—GIFs of Barry riding eagles vs. GIFs of shirtless Vlad riding bears.

REWIND: A forearm to the face has always been a yellow card, except on Black Friday at Walmart. I told you it was getting testy out there.

REWIND: The shifty Eden Hazard will be key to Belgium’s comeback. Algeria’s willingness to hack him down will be key to preventing that comeback. Keep your eyes on the prize, Algeria. That prize is Hazard’s ankles. 

Nabil Bentaleb delivers a forearm shiver to Belgium’s Mousa Dembélé’s neck area. For his service, he collects a yellow card and then compassionately tries to act as Dembélé’s physio. It’s getting a little testy out there, but still, no ballboys getting kicked in the ribs.

REWIND: Nothing special about this Feghouli penalty, except that it puts Algeria up a goal on Belgium at the World Cup, so maybe it is special. Then again, I’m not a doctor.

REWIND: Jan Vertonghen’s cynical foul on Feghouli. Should it have been a red? I say no, for there are two defenders in position to prevent the so-called “obviously goal scoring opportunity.” Which makes Vertonghen’s foul that much more idiotic. 

REWIND: Witsel unleashes a blistering shot right at M’Bolhi. But little does he know, his team is about to concede a penalty. If only he knew, he might have done better here.

Sofiane Feghouli coverts the penalty and Algeria are surprisingly up 1-0. How about that. The World Cup dark horses now have to chase the game against … Algeria.

We have action! Belgian defender Jan Vertonghen gets caught when a long ball is played over to Sofiane Feghouli in the box. He clearly grabs his arm and we have a penalty! *sad tuba music plays*

Belgium’s Axel Witsel with the first real chance, driving a low shot that forces Algerian goalkeeper Raïs M’Bolhi into a save. The crowd stopped jeering and whistling for a few seconds. I think we’re a few minutes away from a protest.

There’s a lot of what sounds like jeering from the crowd. Since I’m not a professional scientist, I can’t figure out what they’re jeering. I’m going to go with “this game so far,” because you can hear it when both sides have the ball. 

REWIND: Here’s an action shot of today’s game. Make sure you’re sitting down.

If this was a game of chess, it would be about 25 minutes into the game and there would be nothing but pawns in play and light tapping of the clock to let your opponent know that it’s his or her turn. Let’s pick this up, Belgium and Algeria.

Some pretty aggressive tactical advice for the Algerians, but I’m not going to pretend that I didn’t say the same thing after Clint Dempsey scored yesterday.

Hazard has not yet kicked any ballboys or Algerians yet, but I will definitely use ALL CAPS if there’s an incident. I’m on this.

Kevin De Bruyne plays a magnificent cross-field pass to Hazard on the left flank, right outside of Algeria’s box. His first touch is sublime, as he kills the ball beautifully. His second touch is with the earth, an Algerian defender take him out and starts play back toward Belgium’s goal. The referee is letting them play.

Apparently, they’re pulling for Algeria in Palestine. Although I’m not sure where this guy’s TV is. But maybe there’s a lesson here: You don’t have to be in front of a TV to support something. It’s important to learn things during the World Cup and hopefully I can facilitate some of that learnin’.

The game’s first foul involves Daniel Van Buyten taking down Algeria’s Soudani. The restart brings nothing of note. It’s feel out time. WHile we wait for action, here’s a fun fact for your pocket: 17 of Algeria’s players were born in France. That’s fun, isn’t it?

The game has started. We’re happy. So are the Algeria fans.

Let’s check in with the Belgium players, shall we? Here’s Lukaku, welcoming the spirit of Belgium into his heart. Cute, right?

Today’s official is Mexican referee Marco Rodriguez, whose include music, cycling, swimming, reading the Bible. I wonder if he has ever tried to combine them all. That might be neat.

“But who will be playing today? I need names!” Simmer down. I’m here.

For Algeria, we’ll go with Khaled, the uber-famous Algerian superstar. You may be like, “Nope, I’d have heard of him if he were uber-famous!” And I would just shake my head in disappointment. Come on, now. He even does songs with Pitbull these days. And I don’t care how famous Pitbull is, he’s the one who needs to be in awe of being able to join forces with Khaled, a man who has had an epic career. Here’s “Hiya Hiya” ft. Pitbull.

For the non-anthem anthems, you just have to watch Belgium’s official world cup song, “Ta Fete” (“Your Party”), by Belgian artist Stromae. I imagine it’s kind of what would happen if England hired Ali G to make a World Cup song. It’s highly entertaining.

Algeria? I can oblige. I’m completely at your service.

Belgium in one minute? At your service:

Algeria, as a nation, has an interesting soccer story. While many people may not be able to spit out the names of famous players who played for Algeria, there are many players of Algerian descent who may ring a bell—Zinedine Zidane, Karim Benzema, Samir Nasri. But these guys all ended up suiting up for France. A name people may remember from that night in Pretoria is Madjid Bougherra, an Algerian defender who spent many years in the English leagues. But this time around, the one Algerian player you’ll want to keep an eye on is their no. 10, Sofiane Feghouli. He collects his paycheck in Spain at Valencia and is an exceptional playmaker.

The team that will try to avoid being kicked by Hazard is Algeria, a team with not as many big time players, but a talented team nonetheless. Many will remember the last time they were at the World Cup, but sadly, not for reasons that paint Algeria in the best light.

Amazingly,the ballboy survived. Some people were outraged, furious that Hazard would go to this extreme to get a ball from a ballboy. I mean, the audacity, right?! Others, like adult Joey Barton, felt differently.

Let’s focus on Hazard for a moment. Only 23 years old, Hazard has been a star at Chelsea for two years now. But before that his name was on everyone’s lips as he lit up the Ligue 1—the French first division—while at Lille. As an attacking player, he can do everything: run with the ball, take players on, and finish with the grace of someone raised by royalty. He’s a complete package, but he isn’t without baggage. (Yes, that rhymes.) Two seasons ago, as a new Chelsea player, Chelsea was chasing a game against Swansea in the Capital One Cup. The ball went out of bounds—as it does from time to time—and Hazard went to retrieve it. That’s when things took a turn for the worse. I’ll leave you with this video from a Taiwanese animation company to explain the rest.

Let’s start with Belgium, shall we? The Red Devils—not to be confused with Manchester United—are widely considered to be this World Cup’s dark horses on many people’s lists. Why? Because their roster is loaded with some exceptional talent. There’s the Manchester City captain, defender Vincent Kompany, the sturdy Axel Witsel, Chelsea/Atletico Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, former Chelsea player Kevin De Bruyne, Chelsea’s exceptional forward Romelu Lukaku, and then Chelsea’s Eden Hazard. Basically, Chelsea will play Algeria today.

Welcome back for Day 30 of the World Cup. Amazingly, we’re still here. If this is your first visit, welcome, we’re glad to have you. If you are a returning visitor, welcome back, we appreciate your presence, and you may need to seek professional help. Nevertheless, since you’re here, stick around for the soccering. Belgium-Algeria has the potential to be quite the entertaining game. The action will be coming to you from Estádio Mineirão in Belo Horizonte.