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Belgium advances in World Cup after beating Russia, 1-0, in Group H

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Belgium earns spot in World Cup knockout rounds with second consecutive, yet unimpressive win

Another uninspiring showing, yet another win by Belgium. Whoever plays the presumed winner of Group H in the World Cup round of 16 -- hello, Team USA? -- will hardly be shaking in their soccer boots.

Labeled the tournament dark horse, Belgium looked more like a beaten-down plow horse until late against Russia. The Belgians mounted no valid scoring chances until the 84th minute, then twice missed narrowly before they were again saved by a substitute in a 1-0 Houdini-esque escape.

Divock Origi, sent on on the second half, dribbled down the left side and handed off to Eden Hazard, who proceeded to the end line, just left of the net. He returned to ball to Origi, 19, who put it away to become the youngest and greenest (with four international caps) Cup scorer in Belgian annals.

Just over six minutes, counting stoppage time, remained.

The Russians, sticky defenders who were touched for only five goals in their soft World Cup qualifying bracket, had kept Belgium at bay until then.

Dries Mertens, one of two reserves to score in the first victory, instilled some early spark as a starter but petered out.

Russia was the superior side throughout, though errant shots ultimately took a toll as its energy waned in the fading minutes.

Nine corner kicks went to waste as Belgium moved to 2-0 in the standings while still yet to impress.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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