24 June 2014

Africa: Algeria Win Helps Turn Africa's World Cup Fortunes

Photo: Barry Aldworth/Backpagepix
Madjid Bougherra of Algeria celebrates scoring during Africa Cup of Nations 2010.

After a poor start, Africa's 2014 World Cup is starting to look like it has the potential to be the continent's best ever, a perception nailed home by Algeria's stunning 4-2 Group H victory over South Korea on Sunday.

The Algerians, Cote d'Ivoire and Nigeria have all worked themselves into very good positions to qualify for the second round, which would be the first time ever that Africa has had three teams in the knockout stages.

Ghana too could join them if they can defeat Portugal in their final pool match and the USA don't get any points from their game against Germany, leaving just already ousted Cameroon as the major disappointments in Brazil.

Algeria were slick, clinical and exciting to watch as they brushed aside the Koreans, who were never really in the game following three first half strikes in 13 minutes via Islam Slimani, Rafik Halliche and Abdelmoumene Djabou, before Yacine Brahimi added a fourth in the second half.

Slimani in particular had an excellent game, menacing the Korean defence at every turn as the Sporting Lisbon star put on an impressive show as the lone striker.

The north African side have often flattered two deceive in major tournaments, but on this night in Porto Alegre showed the full array of their attacking talents.

The only downside was two fairly soft goals conceded which will not please Vahid Halilhodzic, who now knows his side need just a point from their final pool match against Russia to book a second round place, unless the Koreans get a victory by four goals over Belgium.

“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,” an elated Halilhodzic said.

“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 are down, but not quite out, having looked second best by a country mile. They came into this tournament on the back of some poor form and that has continued, leaving them with the prospect of ending their World Cup campaign without a win for the first time in four finals dating back to 1998.

“The result speaks for itself. We made mistakes in our preparation and during the match, but we need to look ahead now,” coach Hong Myungbo said. “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.”

The decisive round of matches in the pool will be played on Thursday, both kicking off at 20h00 GMT.

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