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Dirty Tackle

Match Report: In plodding match, Belgium escapes Russia with late goal

Belgium's Axel Witsel, left, fouls Russia's Oleg Shatov during the group H World Cup soccer match between Belgium and Russia at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Sunday, June 22, 2014
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Belgium's Axel Witsel, left, fouls Russia's Oleg Shatov during the group H World Cup soccer match between Belgium and Russia at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Sunday, June 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

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Instant Analysis

Well, they can't all be gems.

In Sunday's leadoff spot, Russia and Belgium put in a solid bid for Dullest Match of the World Cup, a plodding 1-0 slog that did little to inspire confidence in either side's chances beyond Group play. Only a last-gasp goal by Belgium livened up this match and ensured the Red Devils passage to the next round.

Given that this match was forecast as a showdown between Russia's stifling defense and Belgium's pinpoint attacking offense, the blame for this underwhelming match largely lies with Belgium. The Red Devils simply could not put together any kind of comprehensive attack until literally the final minutes of the match. Whether Belgium were hampered by pressure or managing, they simply could not devise any kind of offensive strategy until they threw strategy out the window and began firing at the goal.

Man of the Match

Nineteen-year-old Divock Origi, who came on as a substitute and rescued a moribund game from the depths of despair in the 88th minute.

Buzzy Moment

Russia's Aleksandr Kokorin is going to be regretting this missed opportunity in the final seconds of the first half for a long, long time:

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Belgium's Divock Origi scores the opening goal past Russia's goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev during the group H World Cup soccer match between Belgiu...

Belgium's Divock Origi scores the opening goal past Russia's goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev during the group H World …

 

What's Next

Belgium is now through to the knockout stage, the second European team and sixth team overall to notch a next-round bid. Russia will need a combination of results in order to advance. Both matches will take place during the late slot on Thursday.

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Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter.

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