Fresh from their 4-2 thrashing of South Korea, Algeria will be full of confidence ahead of their clash with Russia in Curitiba on Thursday, with a point looking like enough to send them through to the knockout stage.
Vahid Halilhodzic’s side have never progressed past the first round of a World Cup, but with them sitting pretty in the group in Brazil, history beckons.
However, Russia are still very much in the hunt for Group H’s second place and a victory will see them leapfrog Algeria to sneak into the last 16. With the stakes so high, Arena da Baixada could be in for a thriller.
Venue: Arena da Baixada, Curitiba
Date: Thursday, June 26
Time: 9 p.m. BST/4 p.m. ET
TV Info: ITV4/ESPN (U.S.)
Algeria Looking to Qualify in Style
Who’d have thought before the tournament that Algeria would be closing in on a place in the last 16? It looked for all the world as if the Algerians would be Group H’s minnows, but it certainly hasn’t played out that way.
After a valiant performance against Belgium that saw them lose a tight game 2-1, they proved that they’re not in Brazil to make up the numbers with a fantastic 4-2 victory against South Korea.
In doing so, they edged closer to the knockout stage, and now just Russia stand in their way of achieving the unachievable.
It also marked their first World Cup victory in 32 years and the first time that an African nation has scored four goals in a single World Cup match—per OptaJoe:
It was far from a fluke, too, and captain Madjid Bougherra said that he was thrilled to have played a part but remained grounded with the crucial Russia match fast approaching—per FIFA.com:
I’m very proud to be the captain of an Algerian team that has won a World Cup match for the first time in 32 years. We learnt the lessons from our first match. The most important thing is for us to play our own game and also play to our strengths. We have made our fans happy with this win and we now have a chance to make it through to the Round of 16, but we need to forget about this victory over Korea first and get our feet back on the ground.
They shouldn’t forget about the victory entirely, though, as they were absolutely outstanding against Korea, playing them off the park for the duration—as Gary Lineker reflected on via Twitter:
Algeria have been terrific. Quick, forceful, intelligent, compact and incisive.— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) June 22, 2014
Algeria will look to bring their form into the Russia clash, but they can expect a much tougher task this time around.
Russia, who drew against South Korea in their opener before being narrowly defeated by Belgium, come into Thursday’s clash knowing that nothing but a victory is good enough.
Though Fabio Capello’s men came into the World Cup with a point to prove, they haven’t quite taken off in the tournament yet despite a strong defensive performance against the Belgians.
The fact that they’re still in with a chance of progressing to the knockout stage is a big bonus, and they’re keen to take their chance—as Aleksei Kozlov revealed with a short but focused statement, per FIFA.com:
“We’ll be up for the challenge against Algeria.”
Things need to improve drastically on the tactics front if Russia are to get past the challenge of Algeria, though, while the Algerians simply need to keep doing what they’ve been doing.
Though Russia may have an advantage in terms of personnel, the way that Algeria conduct themselves as a unit means that they’ll likely dominate Capello’s men and find a way to progress to the knockout stage for the first time.
Prediction: Algeria 3-1 Russia