Algeria vs. Russia: Capello's Drab, Defensive Style Deservedly Knocked out

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Algeria vs. Russia: Capello's Drab, Defensive Style Deservedly Knocked out
Matthias Hangst/Getty Images

Algeria made history by progressing to the FIFA World Cup 2014 knockout stages for the first time on Thursday night, drawing 1-1 with Russia and qualifying from Group H in second place.

Aleksandr Kokorin opened the scoring with a bullet header in the fifth minute, but Islam Slimani equalised via a set piece midway through the second half.

The Desert Foxes held on under pressure for the victory.

 

Starting XIs and Formations

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Algeria played a 4-2-3-1 with Yacine Brahimi through the centre, Abdelmoumene Djabou on the left and Sofiane Feghouli on the right. Essaid Belkalem came into the defensive line at the expense of Madjid Bougherra.

Russia went 4-4-1-1-ish, with Kokorin behind Aleksandr Kerzhakov in the forward line. Aleksei Kozlov continued at right-back.

 

Typical Fabio Capello

Russia started quickly, bagging an excellent goal inside six minutes and building their confidence through it.

Kokorin, the poster-boy of Russian football, converted a beautiful header from a Dmitri Kombarov cross from the left and in doing so gave the Sbornaya their first lead of the tournament.

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Russia's passing was a little flat and uninventive.

That gave them license to drop into a more stubborn, careful low block—typical Capello football—and slam two banks of four behind the ball while defending.

Nothing positive came from Feghouli or Brahimi, but Viktor Fayzulin and Denis Glushakov clogged the centre of the pitch and made things difficult for the Desert Foxes.

They became visibly frustrated, unable to play a stylish brand of possession football on show against South Korea in the previous match, and tempers began to flair.

 

Adjustments

Russia made a half-time switch, replacing Glushakov with Igor Denisov in the centre of the park.

Aleksandr Samedov immediately missed a golden opportunity to double the lead as the Sbornaya started on the front foot again, and Kerzhakov began drifting over toward the flank out of possession in an attempt to show for the ball early, building out from defence.

Capello's men kept the ball far better and used their attacking peripherals more wisely, but incessant fouling gave Algeria the chance to equalise from a set piece.

The response, for the third game running, was to bring on Alan Dzagoev and try to add some directness to the game. He played off Kokorin after Kerzhakov was quizzically substituted, with Maksim Kanunnikov coming on and manning the left flank.

Dzagoev's impact was nowhere close to the one he made against South Korea, with his touch untidy and his passing sloppy. Kanunnikov on for Kerzhakov enraged the fans: substituting the second-highest goalscorer in the country's history for a youngster with four caps.

 

Conclusion

This wasn't the same Algeria we saw against South Korea, moving the ball freely and probing every point of entry on the pitch.

Russia got ahead early and then became frustrated, and while some Desert Foxes fans may be a little concerned over a lack of penetration, their side won't face another side from here on who will sit deep. If anything, it will be Algeria in a low defensive block.

Russia were horrid throughout the tournament and their performance here while chasing a goal was severely underwhelming. There's a lot of work for Capello to do ahead of the 2018 edition on home soil.

"I am very proud, we played a heroic match and we deserved to qualify. We’re very, very proud. We’ve progressed so much over the past three years and this is a real gift," Vahid Halilhodzic gushed to FIFA.com after the game. 

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