CUIABA, Brazil— Blundering Russia goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev was bailed out by teammate Alexander Kerzhakov in a 1-1 draw with South Korea in the World Cup on Tuesday that exposed both teams’ deficiencies.
Akinfeev had already looked suspect in dealing with long-range shots before spilling Lee Keun-ho’s speculative effort into his own net in the 68th minute, gifting South Korea the lead at the Arena Pantanal.
Kerzhakov, though, came to Akinfeev’s rescue by turning in a shot from close range six minutes later — just three minutes after coming on as a substitute — to earn Russia a point from a poor-quality Group H match.
Akinfeev stayed on the ground inside his own net, head in his hands, after making his error, clearly embarrassed after dropping what was a routine save from a shot from about 30 yards. He was consoled by a couple of teammates, who patted him on the back.
“He is a great goalkeeper,” Russia coach Fabio Capello said of Akinfeev. “There can be mistakes, of course — some can get a penalty wrong ... and it’s logical for a goalkeeper to make a mistake as well.
“We were able to make up for that and we can accept a mistake by a great keeper like Akinfeev.”
The explosive six-minute spell that featured both goals was not in keeping with the rest of a fairly mundane game characterized by slow build-up play, poor passing and wayward finishing.
A point leaves both teams behind Belgium, which beat Algeria 2-1 earlier Tuesday, but the group appears wide open based on the opening two fixtures.
Having lost four of its past five games heading to Brazil, the South Koreans came into their eighth straight World Cup with concerns over their flimsy defense and a lack of goal threat. A 4-0 thrashing by Ghana in a warm-up in Miami last week highlighted those worrying deficiencies perfectly.
There was no hiding their toothless attack here, either, with the experienced Park Chu-young starting as the lone striker but justifying fears that he has lost his way after three ineffective years with Arsenal in the English Premier League. He was substituted in the 56th and his replacement, Lee, scored South Korea’s goal.
BELGIUM 2, ALGERIA 1: in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, Belgium didn’t look anything like a darkhorse contender some thought they were, but frightening in a first half where Algeria was more watchable than its brief appearance in 2010. Algeria moved and kept the ball well, looked to hit Belgium on the counterattack and took the lead from a penalty.
Credit Belgium coach Marc Wilmots for turning things around. His second-half substitutions pushed aside the bus — two banks of four players — that Algeria parked in front of goal.
Dries Mertens and Divock Origi came off the bench to inject much-needed speed and ideas. Wilmots’ other substitution, Marouane Fellaini, played better Tuesday than for Manchester United this season, planting himself in Algeria’s box.
He headed in Kevin De Bruyne’s fizzing cross and equalized in the 70th minute. Mertens curled in the winner 10 minutes later. Sofiane Feghouli’s score off a penalty snapped Algeria’s scoreless streak at World Cups, stretching back through a record-tying five matches.
and 505 minutes, just 12 minutes short of the longest World Cup goal drought — 517 minutes for Bolivia.
“We made one error and we paid for it,” said Wilmots. “The bench made the difference. We showed mental strength and we came back.”