RIO DE JANEIRO — Brazil and Belgium proved the old adage that there are no easy games at the World Cup.
Brazil failed to beat Mexico for the first time at a World Cup, held to a 0-0 draw in Fortaleza Tuesday in their second game in Group A. In Belo Horizonte, Belgium — a popular pick to contend for the title — struggled for much of the game before beating Algeria 2-1.
The evening game Tuesday sees the only teams yet to play in this World Cup — Russia and South Korea — take each other on in Group H in Cuiaba.
With Neymar rampant through the middle, Marcelo ever-willing to go forward and Oscar supplying passes and inventiveness, Brazil should have been scoring almost at will. Time and again, Brazil's yellow shirts swarmed over Mexico's penalty box.
But shots and passes went awry, Mexican goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa made outstanding saves and Brazil is clearly missing a top-notch center-forward. Mistiming his run, Fred had a first-half effort disallowed for offside, didn't impact heavily on the game and was substituted in the second half.
Brazil scored 11 goals without reply in its three previous World Cup encounters with Mexico. This was the second scoreless draw at this tournament where goals have rained in.
Lacking penetration and trailing 1-0 from a penalty gifted by Jan Vertonghen, Belgium looked anything but frightening in a first half where Algeria was more watchable than its unambitious and brief appearance in 2010. It moved and kept the ball well and looked to hit Belgium on the counterattack.
Credit Belgium coach Marc Wilmots for turning things around. His inspired second-half substitutions shunted aside the bus — two banks of four players — that Algeria parked in defense.