The Fennec Foxes make history in Curitiba

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Last Thursday Algeria faced Fabio Capello’s Russia in their final Group H game and drew 1-1 in Curitiba. A point was enough to send the North African side into the last sixteen, tomorrow they face Germany at the Estádio Beira-Rio in Porto Alegre (the same stadium where they beat South Korea 4-2).

Dynamo Moscow’s Aleksandr Kokorin gave Russia the lead in the early minutes of the game, Dmitri Kombarov delivered a perfect cross to Kokorin which the Algerian back four failed to clear; the Dynamo striker was in the right place at the right time to head the ball past Raïs M’Bolhi.

In the first half it was looking like Russia would be going through, however, in the second half Islam Slimani headed in from Abdelmoumeme Djabou’s freekick. Russian keeper Igor Akinfeev complained about a laser pen that had been pointed at him whilst the free kick was being taken, the question still remains if the laser impeded him when the ball came in.

Algeria become the first North African side to ever qualify for the second round and will definitely give it their all against Germany who were famously known as the “Disgrace of Gijón” along with Austria as both sides fixed their game to reach the next stages of the tournament. The Fennec foxes beat Germany (West Germany) in the same World Cup (the 1982 Spain World Cup)  2-1 Lakhdar Belloumi  stroked home the winner in the second half, Belloumi mentioned that the victory would give other smaller footballing countries a blueprint to follow in future World Cups, he was definitely right as there have been quite a few shocks in previous tournaments.

It will be interesting to see how Algeria will adopt their game plan against Germany, Vahid Halilhodžić will most likely get his team to sit back and prevent the likes of Thomas Müller coming in and causing a menace in the final third of the pitch. Halilhodžić who once represented the former Yugoslavia mentioned that ““I love it as a coach to see my team fighting like this, Germany are a huge team. It’s going to be very complicated for us. We are small Algeria against big Germany.” (Quote taken from the Guardian, 28th June, 2014)

It’s hard to imagine an Algerian victory in Porto Alegre, however, it is good to see them put Africa once again on the footballing map, however, if we were to see an upset the whole of Algiers will be celebrating for a very long time (video below shows incredible scenes in the Algerian capital) and a lot of fans will strongly believe that justice has finally been done 32 years later.

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The Fennec Foxes stun the Taegeuk Warriors in Porto Alegre

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Last Sunday Algeria beat Group H opponents South Korea 4-2 at the Estádio Beira-Rio in Porto Alegre and are now in touching distance of reaching the knockout stages, a draw against Russia in their final Group H game in Curitiba on Thursday will be enough for them to progress into the next round.

The North African side before their opening game against Belgium had not scored at a World Cup since the ’86 World Cup (Djamel Zidane equalised in the 58th minute against Northern Ireland).

Sporting Lisbon’s Islam Slimani opened the scoring in the 26th minute of the game from outpacing two of the South Korean defenders and slotted the ball past keeper Jung Sung-Ryong.

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Above: Slimani’s “Show me the money” celebration.

Two minutes later The Fennec Foxes extended their lead, Rafik Halliche headed in from Abdelmoumene Djabou’s corner, the Académica de Coimbra player was unmarked and headed past Jung Sung-Ryong’s failed punch attempt.

Ten minutes later Club Africain midfielder Abdelmoumene Djabou trebled The Fennec Foxes lead, once again the South Koreans failed to mark, Djabou was able to run past the vulnerable Korean defence and slotted in from close range from Slimani’s through ball.

In the second half The Taegeuk Warriors pulled one back in the early minutes of the half, former Rangers player Madjid Bougherra made a hash of things at the back and failed to cut out a long ball. Son Heungmin calmly put the ball through Raïs M’Bolhi’s legs.

Twelve minutes later Algeria went ahead yet again, this time Yacine Brahimi who plays his trade at La Liga side Granada CF scored from close range from a well choreographed build up from the North African side.

Ten minutes later South Korea got another consolation goal, Koo Ja-Cheol close range finish gave the Koreans more confidence as they started to gain more flair in going forward; however, their North African opponents did what they did against the Belgians in the remaining minutes and sat back and defended well and went on the counter when the Korean attack broke down.

The stats reveal that Algeria have become the first ever African nation to score four goals in a World Cup match. Vahid Halilhodžić’s side have shown us that they are (like Costa Rica) a well-organised unit with talisman Sofiane Feghouli directing the majority of the team’s play.

Algeria have the chance to make history against a Russian side who have shown some glimpses of potential so far in the tournament. The 2018 World Cup hosts know that if they fail to reach the next round, they have another chance to shine on home soil in four years time. For Algeria this will definitely erase the pain of the 1982 World Cup when both West Germany and Austria stopped playing in the 80th minute (West Germany just needed to win 1-0 for both them and Austria to reach the next stage). From recently writing about the Algerian team and from watching their recent game against South Korea I have definitely gained a soft spot for them and really hope they can do it and make history. Viva l’Algérie! 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 


			

A look into Algeria’s World Cup opener

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After writing a brief post on the Iranian national team I thought I would continue with more ‘alternative’ World Cup themed posts. After watching Algeria’s opening campaign against Belgium and also like Iran being one of the lesser known teams in the tournament I thought I would gain an insight into the North African side’s recent game.

Algeria which has a population of around 38,700,000 inhabitants were the last African team to qualify for the 2014 World Cup and beat Burkina Faso in the second leg play-off place on away goals after a 3-2  first league defeat, Madjid Bougherra’s scrambled goal just before half time confirmed their place in Brazil. The Fennec Foxes have previously played in three World Cups (Spain ’82, Mexico ’86,  and the 2010 South Africa World Cup).

Last Tuesday Algeria faced Belgium at the Estádio Mineirão in Belo Horizonte and lost 2-1. The Fennec Foxes took lead in the 25th minute, Valencia’s Sofiane Feghouli converted from the spot; Algeria’s fan favourite was brought down by Belgium defender Jan Vertonghen and as a result referee Marco Rodríguez booked the 27 year old Spurs centre back.

In the 70th minute The Red Devils equalised, Wolfsburg’s Kevin De Bruyne found Marouane Fellaini in space who then headed the ball past Raïs M’Bolhi. Things went from bad to worse for the Algerians ten minutes later when substitute Dries Mertens put the game to bed by slotting the ball past M’Bolhi from close range from a well worked Belgian counter attack.

Similar to what the Iranian team has done in their recent games, Algeria sat back and let Belgium come into their half of the pitch. This actually worked for the North African side as Spurs’ Nacer Chadli failed to connect with Kevin De Bruyne on a number of occasions. Dries Mertens later replaced Chadli in the second half, manager Marc Wilmots’ tactical change had the desired effect that he was looking for as the Napoli player  as previously mentioned scored the winner in the 80th minute.

One major factor for Algeria was their talisman Sofiane Feghouli, the majority of The Fennec Foxes’ chances came from the Valencia player. Anyone who watches La Liga will know about the Algerian’s creativity and he showed his creative side once more by causing a threat in The Red Devils‘ final third.

One thing that was definitely part of Algeria’s plan as previously mentioned was to sit back and also to hit the Belgians on the break. Tonight they face South Korea at Internacional‘s Estádio Beira-Rio in Porto Alegre at 8pm GMT.

Hong Myung-Bo’s side drew 1-1 in their opening game against Russia in Cuiabá. The Taegeuk Warriors are undefeated against African opposition in the World Cup (they beat Togo 2-1 in 2006 and drew 2-2 with Nigeria in 2010).

It looks like Algerian manager Vahid Halilhodžić will stick to his 4-3-3 formation that he used against Belgium, according to sports stat site B Sports Halilhodžić could use Islam Slimani as a lone striker and use Feghouli on the right and Soudani on the left wings respectively. Having someone like Ferghouli on the wing would definitely help in terms of creativity and also ideal for whipping balls in from the right hand side.

I am going to go for 1-1 draw in Porto Alegre, South Korea failed to make chances against Russia and will most likely have a tough time in creating many chances against a well disciplined Algerian back four. Algeria also failed to make many chances against Belgium, the stats reveal that The Fennec Foxes had only three shots in the game.

 

An insight into the Iranian national team

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The 2014 World Cup commences in just two days time, hosts Brazil face Croatia at the Arena Corinthians stadium in São Paulo, whilst the media will be focusing on the likes of Neymar et al., I thought I would look into one of the tournament’s lesser known teams, Iran.

The Islamic Republic of Iran which has a population of 77,176,930 inhabitants and borders Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Turkmenistan are currently ranked Asia’s top side. Football is definitely one of the country’s most popular sports and the beautiful game was introduced to the Persian nation back in 1898 by British expats.

By 1907 the Iranian the British Ambassador at the time Cecil Spring-Rice founded the country’s first football tournament in Tehran which only had three teams (British Embassy of Great Britain, Indo-European Telegraph community, and the Imperial Bank of Persia).

The Tehran Football Association Club was formed in the same year, the aim of the organising body was to organise matches in the city, all teams that participated were made up of only British residents. Sometimes Iranian spectators would be used if a participating team were short of players.

The British influence definitely helped nurture the Iranian game and by 1941 the national team played their first ever game against Afghanistan and drew 0-0 in Kabul. Nine years later The Iranian Lions played their first ever FIFA international match against Turkey and lost 6-1 in Istanbul.

The national team throughout years have drastically improved since then and have featured in three previous World Cups (Argentina ’78, France ’98, Germany 2006). Brazil now being their fourth World Cup  tournament, this time coached by former Portugal manager Carlos Queiroz, Iran are currently ranked 34th in the FIFA World Rankings.

There was a lot of celebrating in Iran last June when the national team beat South Korea to qualify for the tournament; there were also celebrations in Tehran for political reasons as three days later Hassan Rouhani had been elected.

Iranian fans have been concerned about the lack preparation the team has had, since qualifying for the World Cup in Brazil “Team Melli” (as they are also commonly known as) have only played four 2015 Asia Cup qualifying games (Thailand twice, Lebanon, and Kuwait). Last Sunday they played Trinidad and Tobago in a warm up game in São Paulo and beat the Soca Warriors 2-0. Sepahan Isfahan FC ‘s Ehsan Hajsafi put The Iranian Lions just before half time.

Reza Ghoochannejhad (pictured above) who plays his trade at Championship side Charlton Athletic and once played for Dutch national youth teams before changing allegiances in 2012 doubled Iran’s lead from close range.

‘Gucci’ as he is known by his Charlton team mates is the most likely player to get on the Iranian score sheet. The twenty six year old striker scored nine times in first eleven matches in a Team Melli shirt. He has definitely been the most consistent player in the team and Iran will be heavily relying on his well known goalscoring ability.

At the back they lack consistency and have had an issue with choosing a first choice goalkeeper. Queiroz for sometime has been unhappy with long serving keeper Mehdi Rahmati who has played over seventy games for his country. Many are suggesting that German born Daniel Davari who plays for Grasshopper Zürich will take part in Iran’s Group F matches.

Iran face Nigeria in Curitiba on Monday 16th June, it looks like Queiroz will adopt a more of a defensive approach going into their first game with a 4-2-3-1 formation. This allows the likes of Reza Ghoochannejhad and Ashkan Dejagah to go on the counter attack whilst at the same time gives them the option to defend in large numbers. In contrast, their West African opponents are known for playing a more of attacking formation since Super Eagles boss Stephen Keshi has been in charge and will most likely opt for a 4-3-3 formation. The Iranian Lions will definitely be kept busy with Super Eagles trio Victor Moses, Emmanuel Emenike, and Ahmed Musa (if he starts, he recently picked up a thigh strain).  The Iranians also face Argentina and Bosnia & Herzegovina in their group and it is obviously fair to say that this group is not going to be a walk in a park for Asia’s no.1 ranked side. Although Iran will not be playing the most attractive football, they will definitely take advantage of any mistakes their opponents make when going forward; their stiff back line could be their saviour in the tournament.