CURITIBA (BRAZIL), June 27 (IANS): For the first time in the 51-year history, Algeria has a chance to play the World Cup knockout stage.
With a 1-1 draw with Russia in Curitiba Thursday, Algeria collected four points in three group matches, enough for them to be listed second after Belgium to reach the last 16, reports Xinhua.
Despite a header from Russian forward Kokorin in the sixth minute, the "Fennec Foxes" came back through a strong header from Islam Slimani. His second-period score was enough to send the African side through to a meeting with Germany.
Slimani was elected as the "Man of the Match".
Russia had a perfect start. In the sixth minute, Russia's counter-attack saw a wide open Dmitry Kombarov. The defender curled a beautiful pass into the box. Alexander Kokorin received the ball and knocked it down with a powerful header.
Algeria began to fight back after the goal. Both Nabl Bentaleb and Yacine Brahimi got chances which could have leveled the score. Russia slowed down the rhythm, but the attacking Algeria left enough space for the Russian forwards and Kokorin kept trying for another score in the box.
Kokorin found another chance in the 19th minute. Shatov and Samedov managed to break the Algerian defense, and the later crossed the ball into the penalty area. Kokorin tried another header towards goal, but this one went wide.
The Algerians almost got one score in the 29th minute, when Islam Slimani's strong header was rejected by Igor Akinfeev. Slimani challenged Akinfeev again in the 35th minute, but his effort wasn't good enough to beat the 28-year-old goalkeeper.
Algeria control the field for the rest part of the first half, but neither Slimani's header or Belkalem's kick were able to get past Akinfeev.
Russia's counter-attack remained effective in the second half. Kokorin missed another two chances to beat Mbolhi.
In the 60th minute, Algeria got a free-kicking chance. Akinfeev tried to reach the ball but he completely missed it. Slimani powered home a towering header at the far post, and leveled the score.
The last 20 minutes turned to a half-court attacking mode of Russia. A header from Aleksei Kozlov had threatened Mbolhi, but the shot went wide off the right post.
The final wistle saw great applauses and noises from the Algerian fans, and Russia had to head back home with two draws and one loss in Group H.