For striker Islam Slimani and his Algeria teammates, the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ has now officially taken on “dream come true” status. Beaten narrowly in their opening Group H game by Belgium, Algeria bounced back with four points in their next two games to qualify for the knockout stages of a FIFA World Cup for the very first time. The Sporting Lisbon star weighed in with a goal and two assists in the 4-2 win over Korea Republic, before heading in the equalizer against Russia to book Algeria's ticket to the Round of 16.
“Things went really well for us in our previous game and we knew that we were in with a good chance," Slimani said to FIFA.com after heading Algeria into the knockout phase. "We got it into our heads that we could do it and we did. It was a really important goal, because we started the game badly.
"They scored very early and that changed everything. We kept believing in ourselves and fought for every ball. I’d said that reaching the next round was more than just a mission, it was a dream, so to achieve it is a dream come true.”
We got it into our heads that we could do it and we did
The explosion of joy on the final whistle in the Arena da Baixada was a tangible display of how much a Round of 16 berth meant to everyone involved with Algeria, as well as the sense of unity in the camp.
“It was unbelievable, simply unbelievable,” Slimani said. “The fans have been following us all tournament and they spent the entire match cheering us on. We’re a very united squad, which is why this is just reward for a fantastic team. I’m delighted to be part of this national side.”
Germany up next
Come the last 16, Algeria will be up against three-time world champions Germany – winners of Group G – on 30 June at the Estadio Beira-Rio in Porto Alegre. “The Germans are playing very well and everyone knows what they’re capable of,” Slimani said. “We’re clearly the underdogs, but we’re confident we can put in a great performance. We’ll have to be more focused than ever before and play our very best football.”
Algeria opened their campaign at Spain 1982 with a 2-1 win over the former West Germany, and the on-form forward sees no reason why the 2014 team can't repeat the feat. “We know all about the win over Germany in 1982, when we had the likes of [Rabah] Madjer, [Salah] Assad and [Lakhdar] Belloumi. We’d love to follow in their footsteps," he said. "If it was possible back then, why shouldn’t we dream of doing it again?
“We came to Brazil aiming to get through the group phase. Now that we’ve done it we can be proud, but we shouldn’t be happy to stop here. You always want more and we’re hoping to keep this dream going. I don’t want anybody to wake me up yet."