2 Substitutes, 2 Winning goals. Depth in squad key to Belgium’s late victory over Algeria – Belgium to win Euro 2016

Belgium vs Algeria Match Report

Final Score: Belgium 2 – 1 Algeria (World Cup Qualifier Group H)

Alg: 25 mins – Feghouli

Belg- 70 mins – Fellaini

Belg- 80 mins – Mertens

The

campaign has started with an unconvincing victory over Algeria. The North Africans had taken the lead through Sofiane Feghouli’s first half penalty after the Valencia winger was brought down by Jan Vertonghen in the box in the 25th minute. But Belgium prevailed as a second-half header from Manchester United midfielder Fellaini equalised and then a thunderous effort from substitute Dries Mertens sealed the win for the much fancied Belgians just as Algerian looked to be heading for an unlikely victory.

Tactics

After Algeria took the first half lead, they defended and defended. The Fennecs played very deep which is also known as ‘Parking the Bus’ because you don’t move from out of your own half.

Algeria playing very deep, parking more buses than Transport for London at the moment

— BelgiumWorldCup2014 (@BelgiumWorldCup)

Come on already! Algeria are sitting deeper than a scuba diver!

— BelgiumWorldCup2014 (@BelgiumWorldCup)

We all know the 4-4-2 formation but Algeria’s display resembled more of a 8-1-0 and the star striker Romelu Lukaku was suffocated and limited to one touch passes. With Algeria playing so deep, Belgium were unable to counter attack in the way they love to so the Red Devils were limited to long shots from outside the box by Axel Witsel and crosses over the top. And so, it was a perfect tactic by Wilmots to bring on Fellaini, a tall midfielder who is good in the air to meet the crosses and this led to Belgium’s equaliser in the 70th minute. By the 80th minute, the Algerian’s lack of fitness showed leading to Belgium to counter attack in the way they love – Hazard played in Napoli’s Driers Mertens who blasted a shot into the top corner.

Substitutions

The first half left Belgium frustrated and more attacking options were needed.  The depth in Belgium’s squad and the substitutions made by Marc Wilmots were key to their victory over Algeria. Wilmosts immediately replaced Nacer Chadli for a more attacking Dries Mertens, who ultimately scored the winning goal. Wilmots replaced Mousa Dembele with Marouane Fellaini to encourage the team to defend less and attack more and above all, allow Fellaini to latch onto one of the several crosses being put in the box.

Similar to Switzerland and their two substitutes who scored to beat Ecuador, Belgium proved the depth it’s in squad to progress further in the competition.

Finally, Wilmots took off star striker Romelu Lukaku and replaced him with the inexperienced 19 year-old, . When you need goals, you don’t want to be taking off your star striker – something that left Belgian fans scratching their heads. But since superstar Lukaku was being harassed  as a lone striker, the Algerians didn’t respect Origi in the same way, giving more space for him and his teammates to move.

Wilmots got the substitutions spot on as the players he brought on scored the winning goals to secure the victory. In particular, it was a remarkable performance for Manchester United’s Fellaini who has suffered poor form in the Premiership this year but showed his quality on the biggest stage in football.

Final Thoughts

It’s possible that Belgium underestimated Algeria and perhaps  fielded a slightly weaker squad. Fellaini and Mirallas were noticeable absentees from the line-up and Nacer Chadli was started despite barely featuring for his club this season. We relied on our substitutes to secure victory in a win that was not convincing.

What we’ve learnt from so far is that no team is a pushover. With the intensity and pressure of the competition, we’ve seen firm favourites like Argentina and Brazil win narrowly and be frustrated by the likes of lower expectation Croatia, Bosnia and Mexico.

There is too much pressure on the big players to deliver whether its Lionel Messi, Wayne Rooney or Romelu Lukaku. The high-profile players get targeted by the opposition who base their formation on limiting this player’s opportunities. It is therefore the responsibility of the teammates to step up and for a quality team to have depth in its squad. Such is the case of Switzerland’s two substitutes who scored to beat Ecuador, Belgium proved the depth it’s in squad to progress further in the competition.

Belgium vs Algeria World Cup Highlights

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By Daniel Tannenbaum

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