Algeria took a significant step toward the knockout stage of the 2014 FIFA World Cup with a thrilling 4-2 victory over South Korea on Sunday in Group H at the Estadio Beira-Rio in Porto Alegre, Brazil.
Islam Slimani, Rafik Halliche and Abdelmoumene Djabou scored in the first half as Algeria stunned South Korea's error-prone defence with wave after wave of urgent, direct attacking play.
South Korea pulled one back through Son Heung-Min in the 50th minute, but Yacine Brahimi finished a fine team move to restore Algeria's three-goal lead 12 minutes later. Koo Ja-Cheol tapped in for Korea's second in the 72nd minute, but the Asian side was unable to score again despite attacking until the final whistle.
As former England international Michael Owen noted via Twitter, the six-goal thriller was one of the best games of what has already been a wildly entertaining World Cup:
With the win, Algeria moved into second place in Group H with three points, three behind leaders Belgium and two ahead of both South Korea and Russia. Victory over Russia in their final group match, on Thursday in Curitiba, would be enough to send Algeria into the round of 16. Algeria would also advance with a draw, provided South Korea fail to beat Belgium the same day in Sao Paulo.
For South Korea, the task is now much more difficult. Only a victory against Belgium would be enough to seal progress to the next round, and in addition, the Asian side have an inferior goal differential compared to both Russia and Algeria.
That last part came about largely due to Algeria's breathtaking start to the match. The Africans signalled their intention to attack right away, fashioning a big chance in just the second minute as Sofiane Feghouli controlled a high ball in the box, turned and fired high and wide of the near post.
Two minutes later, Brahimi volleyed over the bar following a scramble in Korea's box, only moments after Djabou went to ground under clear contact in the penalty area. Slimani sent a free header off target in the ninth minute, and could only pop Aissa Mandi's dangerous cross straight into the air 12 minutes later.
Slimani and Algeria finally found the net in the 26th minute with a straightforward attack. Carl Medjani played a long ball over the top for Slimani, who held off two defenders before lifting his finish over the onrushing Jung Sung-Ryong.
It was 2-0 just two minutes later as Algeria took advantage of an error by Jung. Djabou set up the chance, curling in a corner from the left for Halliche, who rose highest to power in his header as Jung flapped at the ball in vain.
Clearly full of confidence with a two-goal lead, Algeria added a third in the 38th minute, again catching Korea with direct attacking play. Slimani took advantage as two Korean defenders failed to clear a long, high pass into the box, squaring for an unmarked Djabou in front of goal. From there, Djabou slotted in to give Algeria a fully deserved 3-0 lead heading into half-time.
Facing such a seemingly insurmountable deficit, South Korea fought their way back into the match after the break by emulating Algeria's direct style.
Min pulled a goal back in the 50th minute, finishing through Rais M'Bolhi's legs after pulling down a long ball into the Algeria box. Lee Chung-Yong headed wide at the near post two minutes later, but was ruled offside regardless, and Ki Sung-Yueng had a swerving, long-distance shot saved eight minutes later.
But just as Korea appeared to be gaining a foothold, Algeria scored a fourth goal with a superbly flowing team move. After playing a one-two with Feghouli near the edge of Korea's box, Brahimi swept in through Jung's legs to make it 4-1.
Korea weren't finished, though, and Koo pulled another goal back in the 72nd minute, tapping in from Kim Shin-Wook's pull-back from the left.
Still trailing 4-2, the Asian side kept attacking as the game entered the final 10 minutes. Lee Keun-Ho shot over the bar in the 85th minute, and Ji Dong-Won saw his low volley deflected just wide of the far post three minutes later.
The comeback wasn't to be, however, a fact that was driven home when Son was denied a penalty appeal after going to ground in Algeria's box in stoppage time.
|South Korea Player Ratings|
|Kim Shin-Wook (for Park, 57')||N/A||6|
|Lee Keun-Ho (for Lee C.Y., 64')||N/A||6|
|Ji Dong-Won (for Han, 78')||N/A||5|
|Ratings via B/R UK|
|Algeria Player Ratings|
|Nabil Ghilas (for Djabou, 73')||N/A||8|
|Mehdi Lacen (for Brahimi, 77')||N/A||6|
|Essaid Belkalem (for Bougherra, 89')||N/A||6|
|Ratings via B/R UK|
Algeria coach Vahid Halilhodzic (via FIFA.com):
I would like to dedicate this victory to the fans who were here and the Algerian people back home who have waited a long time for this victory. It means a lot to us all. Today the team played to its strengths. I told the players to keep it tight for the first 15 minutes and I felt that did extremely well and effectively in the first half - it was almost perfect. We slowed a little during the second half, why I'm not sure. Now we have to try to get a good result against Russia and qualify for the Round of 16. Anything is possible.
South Korea coach Hong Myung-Bo (via FIFA.com)
The result speaks for itself. We made mistakes in our preparation and during the match, but we need to look ahead now. There were lapses in concentration, particularly in defensive areas and we didn’t play to our usual standard. But I must stress, we did not underestimate Algeria. Today their team was completely different than the one that played against Belgium. They played much better today and deserved the win. Now we just need to move on now. We will do our best until the end.