Belgium set a date with the U.S. in the last 16 of the World Cup as the curtain fell on the gripping group stages in Brazil, while Algeria celebrated a historic first.
Thursday’s 1-0 victory over South Korea was more than enough for the unbeaten Belgians to advance from Group H as winners, despite having a man sent off.
As their red and yellow clad fans celebrated in Sao Paulo, there were similar scenes of jubilation in Curitiba.
Algeria made history in Brazil, reaching the knockout stages of the global tournament for the first time at the expense of Russia.
“Les Fennecs” — the Desert Foxes — will need all their wiles as they face the might of Germany next.
Germany had consigned the U.S. to a 1-0 defeat in Thursday’s earlier matches but Team USA escaped from a grueling Group G — which also featured Ghana and Portugal — on goal difference.
Belgium might think themselves lucky to march into the knockout stages with their unbeaten record intact after being forced to play more than half the match with 10 men.
Steven Defour was sent off for a rash studs-up challenge on the cusp of halftime and South Korea sniffed blood, pressing forward after the break.
But if the statistics tell us anything about Belgium, it is never count them out.
Breaking upfield, defender Jan Vertonghen picked up the rebound of Divock Origi’s fizzing effort to break the deadlock after 77 minutes.
Belgium’s last six World Cup goals have been scored in the last 20 minutes of the match. Team USA better be prepared for a lively finish.