Fennec Foxes get their point and make history: how Stats Zone saw Algeria 1-1 Russia
The Fennec Foxes knew a draw would probably take them through to the last 16 and named the same XI that started the thumping of South Korea. Fabio Capello's men, meanwhile, handed striker Alexander Kerzhakov his first start of the tournament, with Russia in need of a killer instinct in front of goal having squandered a host of good opportunities in their opening two fixtures.
There was a good pace to the game early on as Russia went after the win that would lift them above their opponents, and they got the perfect start as poster boy Alexander Kokorin met Dmitriy Kombarov's inviting cross and powered home his header. Algeria's right-sided attacker Sofiane Feghouli was off the pitch at the time receiving treatment on a head wound, and it proved costly as Russia made the most of the space.
After 16 minutes Russia had only completed 7 of their 20 passes in the attacking third of the pitch, yet their 1 and only cross of the game by that point had made the difference.
A closely fought contest was epitomised by the identical passing stats after 25 minutes, but Russia were looking more threatening, playing at a faster tempo and creating more chances - 4 to Algeria's 1.
By half-time, Algeria had mustered more efforts on goal but few were of real concern to goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev, while Russia had been clinical with their sole strike that was on target.
The Fennec Foxes had frequented the left flank on numerous occasions but had little joy getting beyond a stubborn Russian back-line and their right-back Aleksei Kozlov.
Tottenham Hotspur starlet Nabil Bentaleb topped the passing charts at half-time, as his side enjoyed more of the ball (completing 196 passes to Russia's 172) but struggled to break Capello's men down.
Russia started the second half as they had done the first. Aleksandr Samedov ran clear on goal and saw his near-post effort denied by goalkeeper Rais M'Bolhi; a key save as Algeria hauled themselves level on the hour mark. Akinfeev, who made a howler in the 1-1 draw with South Korea, got nowhere near Yacine Brahimi's free-kick, allowing Islam Slimani to head home at the far post. Algeria had launched in twice as many crosses as their opponents, and finally made one of them count.
With 17 minutes to go the game was on a knife-edge; Russia needing a goal to qualify for the knockout stages otherwise Algeria would take second spot in Group H instead.
'What we have, we hold'. As the clock ticked down Algeria sat deeper and deeper, content to protect the point that would see them qualify. And Vahid Halihodzic's side are an organised lot. Despite dominating possession for the last half an hour, Russia were once again found wanting in front of goal. Capello's side go out having made little impression at Brazil 2014, making it three successive group-stage exits.
Algeria, at their fourth finals, qualify for the first time and can celebrate ending 32 years of hurt. The Fennec Foxes were denied progression to the latter stages in 1982 after West Germany's infamous 1-0 victory over Austria, the "Disgrace of Gijon" that sent both Germany and Austria through and Algeria out.
Facts and figures
- Algeria became the sixth African team to make the knockout stages of a World Cup tournament (after Morocco, Cameroon, Nigeria, Senegal and Ghana).
- This tournament is the first time 2 African teams have reached the knockout stages (Algeria and Nigeria).
- Algeria failed to keep a clean sheet for the 11th time in their 12 World Cup matches.
- Alexander Kokorin scored Russia’s first headed goal at the World Cup since Igor Dobrovolski’s for USSR in 1990.
- Algeria conceded a first-half World Cup goal for the first time since 1986. The preceding 8 to Kokorin’s strike came after half-time.
- Russia ended a run of 5 World Cup games without a first-half goal.
- Algeria have scored in 3 consecutive World Cup games after failing to find the net in their preceding 5 matches.
- Algeria have scored more goals in this World Cup (6) than England have in their past 2 World Cups combined (5).
- Asam Slimani became Algeria’s joint-leading World Cup goal-scorer, with Salah Assad (2).
- Fabio Capello has won 1 of his 7 World Cup games as a manager.