Ronaldo’s presence can be to the detriment of the team
It would be simplistic to say that Portugal are a one man team; however it is clear that most of this side are en-thrall to Cristiano Ronaldo – fair enough, he is a supreme player. However, their decision making can be skewed. Often – and it happened on a few occasions during their match with the USA – the right pass is ignored in favour of the Ronaldo pass. His teammates consistently look to get their talisman in the game, even when it is the wrong decision – and it is costing them.
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MISSING: The 15-goal striker who terrorised the Premier League. Last seen scoring for Everton against Hull City on the final day of the club season. If found, contact Belgium directly. Seriously, what has happened to the big man? Lukaku did little to hide his frustration after being hauled off against Russia, who was probably less-than-pleased to see his replacement Divock Origi grab a late winner, but he can have few complaints. An astonishing statistic emerged soon after: he had mustered just one shot in 115 World Cup minutes. He needs to get amongst the goals against South Korea in the final group game, or he could be sitting on the bench when Belgium pull off the remarkable to lift the World Cup trophy on July 13...
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Algeria are a tasty attacking outfit
Cast your mind back to 2010. Algeria had rocked up in South Africa with the sole aim of frustrating their opponents. But, despite achieving their mission, they crashed out of the World Cup with just a solitary point to their name and a big zero in their goals tally. Four years on, and Algeria are an attacking juggernaut. They were unfortunate to go down 2-1 to Belgium in their opening game, but shrugged it off to smash South Korea – scoring four goals along the way. They’re not going to win the World Cup, but their impressive showing on Thursday suggested they have a real shout of reaching the knockout stage.
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Marc Wilmots is an astute manager
Either his initial selections have been so poor that any change would inject life into his team, or Wilmots has a knack for altering a game. He gave Lukaku 56 minutes to make an impression against Russia but, just like he did against Algeria, took him off for a little-known 19-year-old. This time, that change paid dividends as Origi blasted home the winner. Last time, the two other substitutes Marouane Fellaini and Dries Mertens found the net. Wilmots has sensibly created a side that is difficult to beat rather than one that will attempt to outscore the opposition. It’s the perfect recipe for tournament success.
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A missed opportunity for the USA
Jurgen Klinsmann would have taken four points from their opening two games at the start of this tournament but that last-ditch equaliser against Portugal must be tinged with disappointment. Much can be said for momentum during tournament football and Silvestre Varela’s injury time header could have much broader ramifications that simply denying the USA the win. It will have buoyed Ghana and deflated the US. This group is so finely poised it is almost impossible to call.
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The 11pm group games will be missed
So that is it. And what a way to bow out: a last-gasp diving header from Silvestre Varela to keep Portugal in the tournament. So it is with a heavy heart they have now been bid farewell. From tomorrow, it is double headers and decisions to be made. Is it Netherlands-Chile or Australia-Spain at 17:00, or Croatia-Mexico or Cameroon-Brazil at 21:00. The glory days of more or less watching three games back-to-back are no more.
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Fabio Capello’s World Cup travails continue
Having lost to Belgium – albeit unfortunately – Russia must beat Algeria in their last game to qualify for the next round. However, after the opening two rounds of games, Algeria go into the game as the slight favourites. Fabio Capello will go down in history as one of the greatest club managers in history – so why then has he not been able to transfer that success to the international scene?
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