23 June 2014

Africa: Koreans Crushed By Impressive Algeria

Photo: CAF
Algerians celebrate qualifying for the World Cup.

Algeria have moved up to second in Group H with a convincing 4-2 win over Korea Republic at Porto Alegre's Estadio Beira-Rio. The Taeguk Warriors were blown away in a first half that ended with their north African opponents three goals to the good, and not even a much-improved second-half showing could prevent Hong Myungbo's team slumping to a damaging defeat.

There had been plenty of raised eyebrows pre-match at the decision by Algeria coach Vahid Halilhodzic to bench five of the players who had been unlucky to lose 2-1 to Belgium. That shuffling of Les Fennecs pack was quickly justified, though, as they established a firm stranglehold on the match.

The first half, in fact, was as one-sided as any seen at Brazil 2014 thus far, with the tone set after just two minutes when Sofiane Feghouli twisted away from his marker and fired narrowly over from ten yards. Algeria could easily have been 3-0 up inside the opening ten minutes, in fact, with Yacine Brahimi - one of the players promoted to the starting line-up - volleying over and Islam Slimani heading into the side-netting shortly after.

Slimani continued to threaten, though, and with 26 minutes played he scored the goal that he and his team so richly deserved, bustling through on to a long ball, holding off two Korean pursuers and dinking a volley over the advancing Jung Sungryoung. The Taeguk Warriors seemed helpless in the face of this Algerian onslaught and two minutes later their deficit was doubled, Rafik Halliche bulleting home Nabil Bentaleb's corner with Jung caught in no man's land.

The surprise scoreline did not flatter the north Africans and nor could Korea Republic complain when their opponents went three up seven minutes before half-time. The ease with which they found the net was a source of embarrassment though, with Abdelmoumene Djabou popping up unmarked 12 yards from goal to sweep home left-footed from Slimani's clever pass.

Some harsh words were doubtless uttered at half-time in the South Korean dressing room and, whatever was said, it certainly seemed to have the desired impact. The Asians were certainly a different team altogether after the break and hauled themselves back into contention after just four minutes when Son Heungmin spun away from Madjid Bouguerra and smashed a left-foot shot through the legs of Rais Mbholi.

That goal made everyone wonder whether a comeback could be on, and it might have been had Mbholi not made a superb flying save to tip away Ki Sungyeung's sweetly struck long-range effort on the hour-mark. Just a couple of minutes later, though, the Algerians moved out of sight when Brahimi worked a neat one-two with Slimani before nutmegging the hapless Jung.

Halilhodzic's side duly became the first African side to score four times in a single FIFA World Cup match, although their lead was eroded with 18 minutes remaining when Lee Keunho crossed for Koo Jacheol to bundle the ball home from close range. But the South Koreans rarely looked like making it a nervy finale and will now go into their final Group H match needing to beat Belgium to have any chance of making the last 16.

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