Belgium it is. The United States, for its sweet 16 World Cup date, inherits an opponent that unimpressively lorded over Group H.
The main colors for the group's closing matches were red and green. The Belgians overcame a red-card ejection late in the first half that reduced their lineup to 10 men yet outscored South Korea the rest of the way to win 1-0.
Algeria also wrote its name onto the knockout bracket sheet, on a 1-1 tie made possible by a green laser pointer that apparently was flashed at the Russia goalkeeper by a spectator on a free kick.
A distracted Igor Akinfeev complained to the referee just before he was beaten in the 60th minute by Islam Slimani, with Yacine Brahimi assisting. No on-field action regarding the laser was taken.
The goal countered one in the first half by Russia's Alexander Kokorin, who struck while Algeria midfielder Sofiane Feghouli was being treated for a gash to the head.
The draw preserved Algeria's runner-up spot and sets up an encounter with Group G winner Germany on Monday, a day before the United States plays Belgium.
Midfielder Steven Defour, a first-time starter at the tournament, was sent off for spiking a Korean player's leg while chasing a 50-50 ball. But South Korea, which managed three goals in its first two matches, was unable to break through once with 11-on-10. A two-fisted save by keeper Thibaut Courtois off the goal line foiled the best opportunity.
Belgium, with a comfortable lead in the group, was confident enough to hold out six starters. Defour's disqualification forced the Belgians, some abetted by fresh legs, to toil extra hard, and they scored in the 78th minute when Jan Vertonghen converted a rebound that landed right in his bread basket.
The Belgians became the fourth squad to sweep through their group with three victories. None came easy as only four goals were scored, all after the 70-minute mark.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun