SAO PAULO - Jan Vertonghen has led 10-man Belgium to a 1-0 victory over South Korea that gave them top place in their World Cup group.
The stand-in captain hit the winner 12 minutes from time as Belgium finished with a perfect three wins in Group H. They now play the United States in the last 16.
South Korean goalkeeper Kim Seung-Gyu blocked a fierce shot by substitute Divock Origi and it went to the feet of Vertonghen, who buried the rebound and leapt into the stands to celebrate.
Belgian coach Marc Wilmots dismissed criticism over the style of the victory and said his team had "made history" by winning all three group games.
"We fulfilled our mission with nine points," he said. "It's never happened before and what's important for me is whether we can get into the quarter-finals. I don't care about anything else."
South Korea had needed a big win to stand any chance of qualifying, and they were given hope when Steven Defour was sent off for a stamp just before halftime by Australian referee Ben Williams.
"My goal was not to have any regrets. I think we weren't good enough but we nevertheless did our best," said South Korean coach Hong Myung-Bo.
"More than anything, I think it was important for our players to play on such a big stage and gain experience."
Wilmots made seven changes from the team that beat Russia 1-0, giving Manchester United 19-year-old Adnan Januzaj his World Cup debut.
The busy Mertens fired another chance well wide and then forced goalkeeper Kim Seung-Gyu to tip a long distance free-kick over the bar.
Defour got a straight red card from Williams for a two footed challenge on Kim Shin-Wook. The Porto midfielder made no protest and walked straight off.
Belgium were doing most of the defending but Manchester United's Fellaini had a strong penalty appeal denied when he was checked by Hong Jeong-Ho.
Despite their extra man, South Korea could not penetrate the packed Belgian defence and they paid for their failures when Vertonghen scored.