Fresh from a first FIFA World Cup win for 32 years, victory over Russia on Thursday would see Algeria make their second-round debut.
The African side took many by surprise with a scintillating first-half display in Sunday’s 4-2 victory over South Korea last time out, placing them in second place in Group H with a two-point advantage over both the Koreans and Russia.
Islam Slimani, Rafik Halliche and Abdelmoumene Djabou all found the net in a breathtaking first 45 minutes as the Algerians picked apart a hapless Korean defence, with Yacine Brahimi adding a fourth after the break, sandwiched between two goals for the opposition.
The win – historic in its own right – put Algeria on the verge of an even more memorable achievement, and even a draw in Curitiba would be enough to seal progression, providing South Korea do not inflict a heavy defeat on leaders Belgium.
Midfielder Nabil Bentaleb feels Algeria are beginning to shake off the shackles of their defensive reputation, and hopes to deliver a repeat performance against Fabio Capello’s side.
“We want to play and that’s what we’ll do,” he said. “You must remove this defensive-team tag which stuck to the national team at the last World Cup.
“We just show that we have a team that knows how to tackle and how to score goals, and that is what we will do to deal with Russia.”
Russia’s tournament has, so far, been a disappointing one, and they find themselves relying on picking up a victory over Algeria to have any chance of making the last 16 for the first time since the break up of the Soviet Union.
However, a draw is not enough for Capello’s men, whose next World Cup fixture will be on home soil in four years if they are unable to register the win.
Despite a 1-1 draw with South Korea and a 1-0 defeat to Belgium, Capello remains confident that his side can progress.
“There is only one chance against Algeria – a draw solves nothing,” said Capello following his side’s 1-0 defeat to Belgium on Sunday. “I still believe. Absolutely I believe.”
The winner of this group will set up a last-16 clash with the runner-up of Group G, in which Germany – ahead on goal difference – and the United States are currently tied on four points, while second place faces the top side the same group.
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