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After Beating Russia, Belgium Gets Brazil


In some cultures, including certain Far East countries and Belgium, a tie is considered the most honorable of sporting results. But in Japan, at least during this World Cup, a tie means only one point at a time when three are available--soccer's equivalent of the local train in the land of the bullet train.

So it was with no small amount of irony that Belgium, 0-0-5 in its previous five World Cup matches, finally won a game Friday and qualified for the second round because its opponent decided to play for a tie.

Needing only a point for a berth in the second round, Russia chose to fall back and protect a 1-1 score and was stung--yielding two goals in the last 12 minutes as Belgium rallied for a 3-2 victory in Shizuoka.

The victory was Belgium's first in eight World Cup matches, a drought extending to the first round of the 1994 event. Belgium tied three of its matches in 1998 and drew with Japan and Tunisia here. But when substitute Wesley Sonck scored in the 78th minute and captain Marc Wilmots followed suit four minutes later, the Belgians had a 3-1 lead.

Russia countered with an 86th-minute goal by Dmitri Sychev but ran out of time to muster another.

"The game was very tense, but it is a pity that the way we played the game today was an indication of our level," Russia assistant coach Sergei Pavlov said. "Toward the end, we were trying to keep the score as it was, and that harmed us."

Belgium, which placed second in Group H at 1-0-2 behind Japan, will face Brazil on Monday in Kobe.

"We had two draws and one win, scoring six goals. We showed we are not a team you can just throw away," Belgian Coach Robert Waseige said.

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