27 June 2014

Algeria Draws With Russia to Reach Second Round

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

Algeria ensured Africa has two teams in the second round of the World Cup for the first time in history after they held Russia to a 1-1 draw in Curitiba on Thursday.

Islam Slimani headed a vital equalizer for the north African side in the second half after they trailed their European opponents in the first half. Aleksandr Kokorin's first-half goal had looked as though it may take the Russians into the Last 16.

Algeria now joins Nigeria in the knockout stages and Africa finally has managed to get two teams past the first round. It might have been three, had Cote d'Ivoire not pressed the self-destruct button in the final minutes of their match against Greece on Tuesday.

It is also the first time the Algerians have qualified for the second round in a World Cup finals tournament. Their achievement has also ended another long waits – 28 years since they had scored a goal at the finals.

They will now play Germany in the next round on Monday in Porto Alegre.

It first looked as though it might be another night of disappointment for Vahid Halilhodžić's Algerian side when Kokorin expertly headed home Dmitri Kombarov's cross to put the Russians in front on six minutes.

And 15 minutes later the same player should have made it 2-0 with another headed effort that he this time struck wide.

Algeria offered little in the way of attacking threat in the first half, though Slimani did have two headed chances that failed to find the back of the net.

Algeria goalkeeper Rais M'bolhi, often criticised in his homeland, pulled off a wonderful save early in the second period to deny Aleksandr Samedov what would have surely been a killer second goal.

Instead it was Algeria who found the back of the net and it was a howler from Russian keeper Igor Akinfeev. The gloveman came off his line to try and punch a free-kick swung in to the six-yard box, but missed the ball, allowing Slimani to head into an unguarded net and send the Algerian fans into delirium.

Aside from a Aleksei Kozlov header very late on that drifted wide, Russia offered little to suggest they would hit the front again and, although nervous, Algeria managed to comfortably hold on for the point they needed to make history not just for their country, but the African continent as a whole.

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