2014 WORLD CUP SOCCER
Kickoff: Thursday, 4:00 p.m. EDT
Arena Da Baixada – Curitiba, Brazil
Russia +120, Algeria +220 Tie +237
Over/Under: 2.5 Goals (Over +130, Under -158)
Algeria and Russia both wrap up Group H play on Thursday in a match where the winner has a great chance to advance to the knockout round.
After losing a late lead in a 2-1 defeat to Belgium in its World Cup opener, Algeria stormed back for a 4-2 victory over South Korea to pick up a crucial three points. Russia was able to earn only a 1-1 draw with South Korea to begin the tournament, and a subsequent 1-0 loss to Belgium has Russia needing a victory to have any chance to advance to the Round of 16 for the first time ever. Algeria knows that a win plus a Belgium loss to South Korea will put them in first place in Group H, but a tie on Thursday should also send them through for the first time ever, unless the unlikely scenario occurs where South Korea beats a favored Belgium squad by at least three goals. The only injury concern for either team is whether or not Russia defenseman Aleksandr Kozlov can play after suffering an injury versus Belgium.
Algeria failed to score a goal in the entire 2010 World Cup, but coach Vahid Halilhodzic's club already has five tallies in its first two matches in this tournament. The team's penalty-kick goal by midfielder Sofiane Feghouli was its only shot on goal versus Belgium in a match where they attempted just three total shots, but was much more aggressive against South Korea with 15 shots on goal, eight shots on net, and four shots in net by four different players (forward Islam Slimani, defenseman Rafik Halliche and midfielders Abdelmoumene Djabou and Yacine Brahimi). And after being dominated in possession by Belgium (65% to 35%), Algeria held the ball 46% of the time versus South Korea. Although Algeria has been very physical in this tournament with 34 fouls, they have picked up only two yellow cards with midfielder Nabil Bentaleb in the opener and defender Madjid Bougherra in the most recent match.
With Russia needing a victory for a chance at advancement, expect Fabio Capello's squad to be much more aggressive in this match. But it's all about finishing for this team that has attempted a solid 29 total shots, with 16 of those on goal, so far in the tournament. But only Alexander Kerzhakov was able to find the back of the net for Russia in the World Cup when he was inside the goalie box after a failed clearing attempt by South Korea hit Russia's Andrey Eshchenko in the chest and landed right on Kerzhakov's foot for an easy goal. Russia's defense has played pretty well too with only two goals allowed. One of those tallies came at the 88-minute mark by Belgium, while the other occurred in the opening match when Russia goalie Igor Akinfeev let a seemingly harmless South Korea shot go right through his hands. Russia has lost time of possession in both of its matches, but only by small margins (52% to 48% and 53% to 47%). Russia has also been disciplined enough to not get whistled for any offsides, and have committed only 24 fouls so far, incluidng a pair of yellow cards to midfielders Oleg Shatov and Denis Glushakov.