Algeria v Russia – World Cup preview

Watch the Group H clash live on ITV4 on Thursday 26 June

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Algeria v Russia (Group H) 8.30pm ITV4 (kick-off 9pm)

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32 years separated Algeria’s first World Cup win and their second, which finally came against South Korea last Sunday. I was quite the long wait, but now the Africans are just a point away from qualifying for the knockout stages for the first time ever.

It’s all the more remarkable given how little promise they displayed in their opening 2-1 defeat to Belgium. In that match they could only muster three shots on target (one was a penalty), yet their next game against South Korea produced one of the best 45 minutes of attacking football all tournament.

Islam Slimani’s opening goal after 26 minutes opened the flood gates, with Algeria scoring three goals before half time and ending the match 4-2 winners. It was the first time an African side has scored four goals in a single World Cup game.

Algeria’s fear will be that they will once again be snuffed out by Fabio Capello discipline. Four years ago England under Capello played out a turgid goalless draw against them, and Russia threaten to produce the same kind of result – dour, unambitious, but in the end efficient. The only difference is that this time Capello has to find a win.

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It may be false optimism, but this tournament feels different somehow. Algeria could, like Costa Rica, become one of the rising footballing powers in Brazil; yet more proof that the traditional football power blocks are gone for good.