CURITIBA: Algeria progressed to the last 16 of the World Cup for the first time in their history as Islam Slimani’s second-half header was enough to earn them a 1-1 against Russia in Curitiba. Alexander Kokorin had put the Russians in front after just six minutes with an accurate header into the top corner. However, Russian goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev’s nightmare tournament continued when he tried to claim Yacine Brahimi’s free-kick on the hour mark and missed the ball completely allowing Slimani the easiest of tasks to nod home his second goal of the tournament. However, television replays showed the CSKA Moscow ‘keeper may have been distracted by a green laser pen being shone in his eye seconds before the goal was scored.
The Desert Foxes will now have the chance to avenge their controversial exit from the 1982 World Cup when West Germany and Austria played out a mutual beneficial 1-0 win for the Germans when they face Joachim Loew’s men in Porto Alegre on Monday. Belgium topped the group with a maximum nine points from three games after they beat South Korea 1-0 in the other game.
Algeria had gotten off to the worst possible start as with Sofiane Feghouli off the field receiving treatment for a head injury, Russia used the extra space afforded to them down Algeria’s right to open the scoring. Left-back Dmitry Kombarov sauntered forward and his cross was expertly nodded into the top corner by Kokorin. Feghouli immediately tried to make amends with a bustling run past a host of Russian defenders, but the Valencia man was eventually crowded out and the ball cleared to safety. Oleg Shatov then came within inches of doubling Russia’s advantage with a dipping shot from range that flew just past the post.
However, Algeria were posing the greater threat and Akinfeev went some way to redeeming himself for an awful error which cost his side a goal in their opening game against South Korea with a fine save from Slimani’s first effort of the evening. Russia came flying out of the traps in the second period, though, looking to kill the game off and should have done when a lovely one-two between Kokorin and Aleksandr Samedov put the latter clean through on goal, but Rais Mbolhi stood up well to block his effort. And that save was to prove vital on the hour mark as Akinfeev flapped at Brahimi’s free-kick and Slimani headed home into an unguarded net.
Mbolhi was forced into another fine save 21 minutes from time as Samedov played in Alexander Kerzhakov down the right and his low strike was held at the second attempt by the Algerian goalkeeper. Russia continued to push for a winner, but when Aleksei Kozlov’s header sailed wide in stoppage time their last chance was gone. Defeat means Russia have still yet to qualify for the last 16 since the dissolution of the Soviet Union and continues coach Fabio Capello’s poor record at the World Cup after he oversaw England’s 4-1 thrashing at the hands of Germany in the last 16 four years ago.
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