Sports

Belgium relies on bench to get past Algeria: wear them down, then pounce with fresh players

  • Belgium's Marouane Fellaini replaces Belgium's Mousa Dembele, left. during the group H World Cup soccer match between Belgium and Algeria at the Mineirao Stadium in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, Tuesday, June 17, 2014. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

    Belgium's Marouane Fellaini replaces Belgium's Mousa Dembele, left. during the group H World Cup soccer match between Belgium and Algeria at the Mineirao Stadium in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, Tuesday, June 17, 2014. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)  (The Associated Press)

  • Belgium's Dries Mertens crosses the ball during the group H World Cup soccer match between Belgium and Algeria at the Mineirao Stadium in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, Tuesday, June 17, 2014.  (AP Photo/Ricardo Mazalan)

    Belgium's Dries Mertens crosses the ball during the group H World Cup soccer match between Belgium and Algeria at the Mineirao Stadium in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, Tuesday, June 17, 2014. (AP Photo/Ricardo Mazalan)  (The Associated Press)

  • Belgium's Dries Mertens celebrates after scoring his side's second goal during the group H World Cup soccer match between Belgium and Algeria at the Mineirao Stadium in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, Tuesday, June 17, 2014. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)

    Belgium's Dries Mertens celebrates after scoring his side's second goal during the group H World Cup soccer match between Belgium and Algeria at the Mineirao Stadium in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, Tuesday, June 17, 2014. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)  (The Associated Press)

All too often, it sounds phony when World Cup coaches say all 23 players in the squad are equally important. On Tuesday, Belgium coach Marc Wilmots made it ring true.

From the start against Algeria, Wilmots said the plan was to wear out the opposition with possession play and then bring in three fresh substitutes to pounce. Instead of just an 11-man lineup, he was counting on the bench from the opening whistle.

One substitute, Marouane Fellaini, used bulk and power to head home an equalizer to cancel out an early penalty and another, Dries Mertens, finished off a counter in the 80th minute to confirm Belgium as favorite in Group H with a 2-1 win.

Fellaini says, "I always said that the bench will make the difference."