Six years ago today, Algeria reached the last 16 of the FIFA World Cup™ for the first time, having exited the global showpiece at the group phase in 1982, 1986, and 2010.
The Desert Foxes entered the tournament in Brazil with a young, yet strong squad that Bosnian coach Vahid Halilhodzic had assembled in his three years at the helm, and they would end it with a maiden knockout-stage appearance.
Thursday, 26 June 2014, Arena da Baixada, Curitiba
Goalscorers: Russia - Aleksandr Kokorin 5'; Algeria: - Islam Slimani 59’
Algeria began their opening Group H fixture against Belgium by pressing high up the field and soon had the lead when Sofiane Feghouli scored from the spot, dispatching a side-foot shot low to the left of Thibaut Courtois.
The Red Devils restored parity in the second half, with Fellaini looping a fantastic header, before Mertens grabbed the winner from a counter-attack, rifling an unstoppable shot past Mbolhi.
Vahid Halilhodzic made five changes after the opening defeat to Belgium. The reshuffle paid off, with the Desert Foxes finding the net on four occasions for the first time in a World Cup game thanks to Slimani, Halliche, Djabou and Brahimi.
Algeria entered this decisive final group game on three points, while Russia had just one after a draw with Korea Republic and a defeat to Belgium. The European side knew a win would put them through to the Round of 16 whereas a point would suffice for the north Africans.
Fabio Capello saw his side take an early lead through Kokorin’s header, exploiting the space created when Sofiane Feghouli was receiving treatment on the sidelines for a head injury.
While Algeria failed to restore parity before the break, they battled back in the second half and were rewarded when Slimani managed to direct Brhaimi’s in-swinging free kick into Akinfeev’s net.
Algerian fans in the stands, as well as some 40 million watching back home, endured a nervous last 30 minutes, with goalkeeper Rais Mbolhi making several fantastic saves, most notably from Kokorin.
All of Algeria gave a sigh of relief when the referee Cakir blew the final whistle, triggering celebrations at home and in Curitiba’s Arena da Baixada, where the players jubilantly waved Algerian flags.
The Round-of-16 fixture had a special significance for Algeria, who had previously beaten West Germany 2-1 at Spain 1982. At Brazil 2014, however, two extra-time goals from Andre Schurrle and Mesut Ozil proved enough to edge the Mannschaft past Algeria in spite of a late reply from Djabou.
The Desert Foxes went home with their heads held high having lost to a superb German side, who subsequently routed Brazil 7-1 and claimed the title with a solitary Mario Gotze strike in the Final against Argentina.
More than one million Algerians gathered outside Houari Boumediene airport to greet the returning players, who later boarded an open-top bus to celebrate with their fans on an unforgettable day for Algerians.
“We played a historic game against a strong Russian team. Our players fought hard, the result was fair and qualification for the next round was fully merited. At Brazil 2014, we were much improved, both tactically and technically, and had enormous confidence in our abilities. If it weren’t for the loss against Germany, we’d have made the final.” Vahid Halilhodzic, Algeria coach at Brazil 2014
“My goal against Russia at the World Cup remains my best memory.” Islam Slimani, Algeria forward
4 - Algeria managed to score four goals in a World Cup game for the first time. They beat Korea Republic 4-2 in their second group game, bolstering their chances of making the knockout phase.
Vahid Halilhodzic fielded 20 out of the 23 players in his Brazil 2014 squad. Only Liassine Cadamuro and the two reserve goalkeepers, Cedric Si Mohammed and Mohamed Zemmamouche, failed to make an appearance, showing that the Bosnian coach was not dependant on a fixed starting XI and could still produce results after extensive changes.