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Algeria vs. Russia: Final score 1-1, Les Fennecs squeeze into knockouts

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Algeria drew 1-1 with Russia to guarantee their place in the World Cup knockout stages for the first time ever.

Matthias Hangst

Algeria secured a 1-1 draw against Russia in Curitiba to progress beyond the World Cup's first round for the first time in their history. The tie combined with Belgium's win over South Korea to send Les Fennecs into the knockout stages as group runners-up, while Russia are eliminated in third place.

Heading into the game, it was likely that Algeria would only need a draw in order to progress into the knockout stages, though any hopes they had of shutting up shop for a goalless draw were blown out of the water in just the sixth minute. That was as Russia took the lead in brutally simple fashion, with fullback Dmitri Kombarov delivering a deep cross into the box for Aleksandr Kokorin to head powerfully home.

With the goal ensuring Russia provisionally leapfrogged Algeria in the group, Les Fennecs looked to peg them back immediately. Their talented playmakers Sofiane Feghouli and Yacine Brahimi buzzed around busily in the minutes following the goal, though despite plenty of final third possession, Algeria couldn't test goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev from open play. Their best chance came from a corner on the half-hour, though Islam Slimani's powerful header was tipped over the crossbar.

For the rest of the half there was little in the way of goalmouth action, with Russia going closest to a second courtesy of a long-range piledrive from Oleg Shatov that whistled past Raïs M'Bolhi's post. The initial excitement gave way to a midfield stalemate, and neither goalkeeper had much to do.

That changed within a couple of minutes of the restart, when Russian winger Aleksandr Samedov found himself threaded through on goal, only to have his shot saved when one-on-one with M'Bolhi. It was a miss he'd be made to regret on the hour, when Algeria found their equalizer. Slimani's aerial prowess was evident again as he leaped to nod a Brahimi free-kick past Akinfeev for 1-1, forcing Russia on to the offensive once more.

Samedov was still the most painful Russian thorn in Algeria's side, and he again found himself through on goal with just over 20 minutes remaining, only to be thwarted for a second time by M'Bolhi.

Algerian coach Vahid Halilhodžić responded by looking to tighten his team up in midfield, withdrawing their excellent playmaker Brahimi in place of the more defensively-minded Hassan Yebda. It was a substitution that paid dividends, with Les Fennecs keeping things just about tight enough to guarantee their progression into the knockout stages.

Algeria will play Germany in the round of 16, while group winners Belgium will face the United States. Russia won't play another World Cup match until they host the tournament, four years from now. It remains to be seen whether such an early exit will have ramifications for their veteran coach Fabio Capello.

Algeria: M'Bohli; Mesbah, Belkalem, Halliche, Mandi; Medjani, Bentaleb; Djabou (Ghilas 77'), Brahimi (Yebda 71'), Feghouli; Slimani (Soudani 90+1').

Goals: Slimani (60').

Russia: Akinfeev; Kombarov, Ignashevich, Berezutskiy, Kozlov; Fayzulin, Glushakov (Denisov 46'), Shatov (Dzagoev 67'); Kerzhakov (Kanunnikov 81'), Kokorin, Samedov.

Goals: Kokorin (6').