“They’re the best Algeria team ever,” delighted fan Farouk told FIFA.com after Les Fennecs had downed Korea Republic 4-2 in Porto Alegre on Sunday, their first win at the FIFA World Cup™ since Spain 1982.
While it is still too early to say if this Algeria side is the greatest the country has ever produced, there can be no questioning the quality of the performances Vahid Halilhodzic’s men have produced at Brazil 2014. It was creative midfielder Sofiane Feghouli who set the ball rolling for the North Africans against Belgium, scoring their first goal in 507 minutes of world finals football.
Their emphatic defeat of the South Koreans was their first World Cup win in 32 years and also the first by an Arab team in 16 years. In bringing those barren runs to a spectacular end, Les Fennecs also became the first Arab and African side to score four goals in a world finals match. To mark that achievement, FIFA.com looks back at some of the most notable wins scored by Arab teams in the competition over the years.
The first of them all (Argentina 1978: Tunisia 3-1 Mexico)
Making their debut appearance at the World Cup, the Carthage Eagles faced what looked to be a stern test against an experienced Mexico side that had won the CONCACAF Gold Cup the previous year. That test became even more daunting when the Mexicans took the lead, though the Tunisians proved they were up to the task by launching a stunning second-half comeback, with goals from Ali Kaabi, Nejib Ghommidh and Mokhtar Douieb securing the first ever win by an Arab side in the world finals and Tunisia’s one and only victory to date in their four appearances in the competitions.
Giantkillers in Gijon (Spain 1982: Algeria 2-1 West Germany)
Not even the most optimistic of Algeria supporters expected their side to get anything out of this group meeting with the then two-time world champions. After an uneventful first half, Rabah Madjer announced himself to the world by rounding off a lightning break to put the underdogs ahead. Karl-Heinz Rummenigge pulled the stunned Germans level after 67 minutes, though any sense of relief they felt was short-lived to say the least, with Lakhdar Belloumi scoring the winner following an intricate ten-pass move straight from the restart. Algeria’s epic victory in Gijon remains the most significant by an Arab side in the World Cup.
A dream come true (Mexico 1986: Morocco 3-1 Portugal)
Morocco made their finals debut at Mexico 1970 and returned to the country in 1986. Though they collected just a point on the first of those visits, the Lions of the Atlas fared much better second time round, kicking off with draws against Poland and England before earning their maiden finals win over Portugal, semi-finalists at the UEFA European Championships two years earlier. Abdelrazzak Khairi scored twice, with Mustafa Merry adding a third as the Moroccans took top spot in the section and became the first Arab and African side ever to reach the second round.
Brothers in arms (USA 1994: Saudi Arabia 2:1 Morocco)
The first meeting between Arab teams in 15 World Cups, this game was a crucial one for both sides, with Morocco having lost to Belgium in their opening match and tournament debutants Saudi Arabia doing likewise against the Netherlands. Sami Al Jaber gave the Saudis an early lead from the spot, with Mohammed Chaouch equalising and Fuad Amin then scoring his second goal of the competition to give the Green Falcons victory.
Anything Diego can do … (USA 1994: Saudi Arabia 1-0 Belgium)
After beating Morocco the Saudis then faced Belgium, needing a win to advance to the second round. The game’s only goal came five minutes in, with Said Al Owairan picking up possession in his own half and proceeding to dribble round four opponents before shooting past Michel Preud'homme in the Belgian goal. Owairan’s sublime solo effort earned him the nickname The Maradona of the Arabs.
The question now is, can Madjid Bougherra and Co add to this list of memorable Arab wins when they take on Russia in their final Group H match on Thursday?