Algeria have come a long way in this World Cup and go into this match with a genuine chance of qualification to the next round. With a belting 4-2 win over South Korea, their first win in 32 years, the Desert Foxes find themselves at a stage where a draw could be enough to progress to the next stage of the World Cup. When it meets Russia on Thursday in Curitiba, Algeria knows that a 2nd straight win will mean a place in the last 16. A draw would probably be enough too, unless South Korea secures a big win over Belgium, who have already qualified.
Russia, playing in its first World Cup since 2002, still has a reasonable chance of advancing. Fabio Capello’s squad of entirely Russian-based players showed glimpses of potential and pressured Belgium for long stretches but lacked quality finishing during a 1-0 defeat. The team was also unlucky in its opening 1-1 draw with South Korea, conceding a soft goal when experienced keeper Igor Akinfeev let the ball slip through his hands. Fabio Capello admitted there was no other option besides going all out for a win against the African side. Capello, who has already earned a contract extension through to 2018 said,
“We have no other option than to go out and beat Algeria. After not playing in the World Cup in 12 years, this tournament does a great service to us. It helps us understand the level at which we need to compete.”
Russia has scored just one goal in this World Cup, the least among the other teams in the group while Algeria have found the net 5 times, the most in the group.
Most of Russia’s attack has come from the right side which amounts to 47% while the Desert Foxes have preferred the left hand side to the right with 50% of their attack coming from the left.
Both the sides have surprisingly attempted a through ball just once in over 180 minutes of football. (Stats from WhoScored.com)
Key Men – Nabil Bentaleb and Alexander Kokorin
Nabil Bentaleb has been playing at the heart of Algeria’s midfield and his performance will undoubtedly be crucial in deciding the game’s outcome. He’s had a decent World Cup so far, enjoying an 83% of pass success rate – more than any other Algerian midfielder. He’s attempted 4 tackles in total and an impressive 77 passes in the first two games. He’s contributed to the defensive aspect of the game by making 3 successful clearances in two games, something he will have to do in the upcoming game against Russia as well.
Russia has been lacking a clinical striker in this tournament so far. They have been creating the chances but only to squander them all themselves. This is why Alexander Kokorin can be key to Russia’s chances against Algeria. An early goal for Fabio Capello’s side would certainly rattle the opposition and place them in a firm position to take control of the game and the opposition. Kokorin’s attempted a total of 5 shots at goal with none finding the net. An impressive number of key passes (3) and a decent pass success rate of 75% in this World Cup. He missed a glorious chance to open the scoring against Belgium, something he would not want to repeat in the upcoming game.
As we already know, the Algerian team are on the verge of making history in this edition of the tournament. 32 years after that dubious draw that knocked the Foxes out of the tournament, they have the power to decide their fate this time that will erase the memory of the rather painful past. The Russians, managed by the experienced Capello, will have to win at all costs to go through and make the impression they want to make before they host the next edition themselves four years on. I’m still not convinced about Algeria’s chances despite the massive win against Korea and think they would fall short on Thursday.
Algeria 1-2 Russia