Islam Slimani’s second-half header secured Algeria a 1-1 draw with Russia that sent them into the knockout phase of the FIFA World Cup™ for the first time. Fabio Capello’s side had been on course to seize the runners-up spot in Group H thanks to Alexander Kokorin’s early goal, but Vahid Halilhodzic’s men rallied to secure a trip to Porto Alegre to face Germany on Monday.
Parity lasted just six minutes in Curitiba, and it owed as much to a gorgeous cross as it did to an assured finish. Dmitry Kombarov collected the ball of the left flank and guided it on to the head of Kokorin, who combined power and accuracy to find the top corner from nine yards.
Midway through the half, Oleg Shatov burst purposefully through the midfield and unleashed a 25-yard strike that wasn’t far off target.
Yacine Brahimi did well to make space for himself on the edge of the box, but his low drive lacked power and went straight at goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev. Algeria had a much better chance on the stroke of half-time. Brahimi’s handily-whipped corner gave Slimani a free header, six yards out, but the No13’s effort went straight into the arms of a relieved Akinfeev.
Russia took merely two minutes to carve out a great opportunity following the restart. Alexander Samedov broke forward and played a defence-piercing one-two with Kokorin. It left the former one-on-one with Adi Mbohli, but the Algeria keeper did superbly to make himself big and block the shot.
Les Fennecs equalised on the hour. Slimani leapt impressively at the back post to meet Brahimi’s corner and, undeterred by the flying fist of Akinfeev, sent a powerful, downward header into the net.
Russia attempted to respond and Samedov’s clever reverse pass found Kerzhakov in space inside the Algeria penalty area on 70 minutes. But the forward's fierce, low shot was saved impressively by Mbohli.
Capello's side pressed relentlessly for a winning goal, but Algeria, with centre-back Rafik Halliche impressing, cleared a series of ball into their box.
The final whistle was greeted with joyous celebrations from the Algeria supporters. At the fourth attempt, they have made it beyond the World Cup’s group stage.