25 June 2014

Algeria: Desert Foxes Stand On Verge of World Cup History

Photo: CAF
Algerian Players celebrate a goal at World Cup.

Algeria stand on the brink of a first-ever qualification for the World Cup second round but must first avoid defeat against Russia in Curitiba on Thursday.

OVERVIEW

Victory for Algeria would ensure a historic place in the Last 16 and perhaps go some way to finally realizing the potential many have felt this side have always had.

Defeat and the same old accusations of under-performance and choking will return to a team now ranked number one in Africa, but with nothing tangible to show for that status.

A place in the second round would certainly be seen as an achievement out of a difficult but not impossible group.

Russia will present a challenge. They are organised and difficult to break down, while at the same time have a number of players who can be considered genuine match winners.

Under Fabio Capello they play a compact style, devoid really of much flair and with an attitude of not losing rather than going for the win.

They will have to change that mindset here; three points are a must for them if they are to reach the second round.

There has been plenty of nervous energy in the Algeria camp this week and they were congratulated by all and sundry for their 4-2 success over South Korea last time out.

The country's president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, sent a personal message of support, which will heighten the pressure on the team to deliver against Russia.

Certainly they have it within themselves to get the point they will likely need to advance, unless the Koreans do something extraordinary against Belgium.

Both Algeria and Russia have no real injury concerns ahead of the game and can field a full complement of players.

KEY PLAYERS

Islam Slimani (Algeria) - Slimani showed in the victory over South Korea just how effective he can be as a lone striker. All pace and power, he dragged the Korea defence all over the pitch, creating opportunities not just for himself but for teammates too. Not always a regular starter, he will surely get the nod again after that performance.

Aleksandr Kokorin (Russia) - Russia need to find goals from somewhere and Kokorin looks their most likely beat. The Dynamo Moscow forward is seen as a rising star in the Russian game, but now is his chance to show that potential exists.

WHAT THEY SAY

Sofiane Feghouli (Algeria midfielder) - "We approach all our meetings with the intention of winning, and we will not change this rule for Russia. It would be a big mistake to play for a draw against Russia who are a good team and will certainly look to fight for their own qualification."

Fabio Capello (Russia coach) - "Of course I still believe. We have no other option than to go out and beat Algeria. The important thing about playing a first World Cup in 12 years is that it helps us to ascertain the level which we need to be at in order to hold our own in these competitions."

MATCH FACTS

Date: Thursday, June 26

Kick-off: 20h00 (GMT)

Venue: Arena da Baixada, Curitiba

Referee: Cüneyt Çakır (Turkey)

ALGERIA HEAD-TO-HEAD VS RUSSIA

P W D L GF GA

1 0 1 0 2 2

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