Sao Paulo: Ten-man Belgium Thursday marched into the FIFA World Cup knockout stage topping Group H after a 1-0 victory over South Korea, their third consecutive win, and set up a round of 16 showdown with the US.
Defender Jan Vertonghen scored the only goal of the match in the 77th minute at the Arena Corinthians here. Belgium once again showed that they are capable of grinding out important results as they fought with ten men for over half the game.
Belgium, though, suffered a setback when Steven Defour was sent off for a straight red card offence in the 44th minute. The FC Porto midfielder stepped on the shin of South Korea forward Kim Shinwook following a hard tackle.
Belgium's defender Jan Vertonghen celebrates after scoring during a Group H football match between South Korea and Belgium at the Corinthians Arena in Sao Paulo during the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Pic/AFP
Belgium lead Group H with nine points and will take on the US in Salvador July 1.
Algeria finished second with four points and managed to scrape through after their 1-1 draw against Russia. They will face Germany in Porto Alegre June 30.
Russia and South Korea were third and fourth with one point each.
The contest was a fairly even affair, as Belgium once again laboured through another group match.
The South Koreans threw everything they had in a bid to try and squeeze through into the knockout stages but it just wasn’t enough.
In the 30th minute Defour had saved his team, known as "Les Diables Rouges" or “The Red Devils”, from conceding a goal as the 26-year-old denied a shot from Koo Jacheol in front of the goal-line. The goal-line technology review showed the ball did not cross the line.
The Belgians' best chance came in the 24th minute when attacking midfielder Dries Mertens from Italian side Napoli caught a loose ball inside the box. But his short-range shot flew high off the target.
The goal finally came for the Belgians after Divock Origi worked himself a yard of space, before cracking a ferocious effort straight at South Korean goalie Jung.
The goalkeeper made the save but only managed to parry the ball to Vertonghen, who slammed home the rebound emphatically.
Belgium had already sealed their berth in the knockout stage before the match and fielded a series of reserve players including Manchester United promising star Adnan Januzaj who only chose to play for Belgium in April.
The South Koreans, however, needed to beat Belgium to keep their last 16 hope alive. They made two changes in their starting line-up, keeping their star striker Park Chuyoung and first-choice goalkeeper Jung Sungryeong on bench.