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    Algeria

    Bastia midfielder Ryad Boudebouz, who has not featured for Algeria since the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations, was named in coach Vahid Halilhodzic's 30-strong provisional squad for the FIFA World Cup™.

    Leicester frontman Ryad Mahrez is called up for the first time, but Livorno striker Ishak Belfodil failed to make the cut, although he remains on stand-by should Porto's Nabil Ghilas not shake off injury.

    Just five of the squad, which will be trimmed to 23 on 1 June - a day after a warm-up match against Armenia in the Swiss city of Sion - are based in Algeria.

    Algeria have been drawn in Group H alongside Belgium, Russia and Korea Republic, and kick off their campaign against the Belgians in Belo Horizonte on 17 June.

    Algeria squad
    Goalkeepers: Rais M'bolhi (CSKA Sofia/BUL), Mohamed Zemmamouche (USM Alger), Ezzdine Doukha (USM El Harrach), Mohamed Cdric (CS Constantine)
    Defenders: Essaid Belkalem (Watford/ENG), Madjid Bougherra (free agent), Lyassine Cadamuro (Real Mallorca/ESP), Faouzi Ghoulam (Napoli/ITA), Rafik Halliche (Academica Coimbra/POR), Nacereddine Khoualed (USM Alger), Aissa Mandi (Reims/FRA), Mehdi Mostefa (Ajaccio/FRA), Carl Medjani (Valenciennes/FRA), Djamel Mesbah (Livorno/ITA)
    Midfielders: Nabil Bentaleb (Tottenham/ENG), Ryad Boudebouz (Bastia/FRA), Yacine Brahimi (Granada/ESP), Adlene Guedioura (Crystal Palace/ENG), Amir Karaoui (ES Setif), Medhi Lacen (Getafe/ESP), Saphir Taider (Inter Milan/ITA), Hassen Yebda (Udinese/ITA)
    Forwards: Rafik Djebour (Nottingham Forest/ENG), Abdelmoumen Djabou (Club Africain/TUN), Sofiane Feghouli (Valencia/ESP), Ryad Mahrez (Leicester City/ENG), Islam Slimani (Sporting Lisbon/POR), Hilal Soudani (Dinamo Zagreb/CRO), Foued Kadir (Rennes/FRA), Nabil Ghilas (FC Porto/POR)

    * Squad lists are only official once they have been confirmed and published by FIFA on 16 May at 12:00 CET.

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    Brahimi: I've always tried to copy Ronaldinho, Zidane

    With Lionel Messi, Neymar and Cristiano Ronaldo strutting their stuff on a weekly basis, La Liga is home to some of the world’s best ball players. This season, however, the lauded trio has been upstaged in the dribbling stakes by Granada midfielder Yacine Brahimi, who, as of April, had completed 152 successful runs with the ball out of 319 attempts.

    “It’s something I’ve loved doing ever since I was a boy,” the Algeria ace told FIFA.com. “I’ve always got a kick out of watching skilful players who can get past their man with a single move.

    “I spent a lot of time watching videos of players like Ronaldinho and Zinedine Zidane and trying to do the things they did in the matches we’d organise with my friends from the neighbourhood. They were the ones who made me want to play football and who pushed me to work on my technique.”

    Born in Paris, Brahimi started out at France’s national football academy at Clairefontaine, a breeding ground for the country’s talented youngsters and where the likes of Thierry Henry, William Gallas and Nicolas Anelka all got a grounding in the game.

    After learning the ropes, Brahimi joined Paris Saint-Germain, though his first real chance to make an impact in the professional game came at Stade Rennais. He spent four years there, interrupted by a spell on loan with second division Clermont, and scored nine goals in 52 appearances, while also breaking into France’s U-21 side.

    In 2012, Brahimi opted for a change of scene, leaving France for his current employers Granada: “I wanted to bounce back. I’d just had a disappointing season with Rennes and hadn’t played much because of injury. Granada was the best place for me to go and get my career back on track.”

    The diminutive attacking midfielder enjoyed a promising first season with Les Filipinos - so promising in fact that the club’s directors took up the option to buy him ahead of the 2013/14 season.
    It was a decision they would not regret, as Brahimi became one of the darlings of the Estadio Nuevo Los Carmenes, chipping in with three goals and three assists as the club retained its top-flight status, one of those goals securing three vital points against Barcelona in April.

    “I’m very happy here,” he said of his new home. “The game’s more skilful in Spain and it fits in with the type of player I am. Andalusia is a great region too and a wonderful place to live.”

    Just across the Mediterranean lies the country of his ancestors, Algeria, which he finally decided to represent last year. “That’s where my roots are,” he said, explaining his choice. “My father was born there and I’m very proud to be representing my people. We are lucky enough to have wonderful fans who let you know how important it is to wear this jersey.”

    Brahimi has made four appearances to date for Les Fennecs and impressed in each of them, prompting coach Vahid Halihodzic to name him in a 30-man provisional squad for Brazil 2014, which will shortly be reduced to 23.

    Contemplating the chance to play at the global finals, the Granada man said: “Taking part in the World Cup is a childhood dream and the fact that it’s being held in Brazil just adds to it all. It is the home of football, after all.

    “I’m not there yet, but it’s very satisfying to be one of the players under consideration. And no matter who goes in the end, the team will be giving its all. The Algerian people are proud but demanding too. The team has responsibilities and it will have to shoulder them.”

    Brahimi’s repertoire of tricks and flicks could prove a valuable weapon for the Algerians when they take on their Group H opponents. “It’s a very tough group, with an excellent Belgium team, not to mention Russia and Korea Republic, who are both regular finalists,” said Brahimi, who is determined to make a telling contribution to the Fennec cause: “Dribbles are all very well, but the main thing is to make a difference.”

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    Guedioura, Djebbour miss out for Algeria

    Algeria coach Vahid Halilhodzic has confirmed his final 23-man squad for the FIFA World Cup™. Crystal Palace midfielder Adlene Guedioura and on-loan Nottingham Forest forward Rafik Djebbour, who were both part of their country's squad at the 2010 World Cup, are among those to miss out.

    The other five players cut from the 30-man provisional squad that Halilhodzic named last month are goalkeeper Azzedine Doukha, defender Nacereddine Khoualed, midfielders Ryad Boudebouz and Amir Karaoui, plus forward Foued Kadir.

    Algeria start their World Cup campaign against Belgium on 17 June, with Russia and Korea Republic the other two teams in Group H.

    Algeria squad:

    Goalkeepers: Mohamed Lamine Zemmamouche (USM Alger), Rais Mbolhi (CSKA Sofia), Cedric Si Mohamed (CS Constantine)
    Defenders: Carl Medjani (Valenciennes), Aissa Mandi (Reims), Madjid Bougherra (Lekhwiya), Faouzi Ghoulam (Napoli), Rafik Halliche (Academica),Essaid Belkalem (Watford), Liassine Cadamuro (Real Mallorca), Djamel Mesbah (Livorno), Mehdi Mostefa (Ajaccio)
    Midfielders: Sofiane Feghouli (Valencia), Saphir Taider (Inter Milan), Medhi Lacen (Getafe), Abdelmoumen Djabou (Club Africain), Yacine Brahimi (Grenada), Nabil Bentaleb (Tottenham), Hassan Yebda (Udinese), Riyad Mahrez (Leicester)
    Forwards: Islam Slimani (Sporting Lisbon), Hilal Soudani (Dinamo Zagreb, Nabil Ghilas (Porto).

    * Squad lists are only official once they have been confirmed and published by FIFA on 5 June at 12:00 CET.

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    Feghouli: We can make the knockouts

    Recently named in the Algeria squad for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™, winger Sofiane Feghouli is on the point of fulfilling his boyhood dream of playing in the biggest footballing show of all. Born in Paris, Feghouli spent his childhood watching international football on TV, following the fortunes of his native France in particular.

    “Playing in the World Cup is a very important step in my career,” he told FIFA.com. “It’s a dream I’ve had since I was a kid and now it’s going to come true. I used to watch the competition on TV and I supported France when they beat Brazil in the 1998 Final thanks to two Zinedine Zidane headers. In a few days I won’t be a spectator any more. I’ll be part of it all, playing in front of millions of people.”

    Feghouli has gone from being a relative unknown with unheralded Grenoble to an undisputed first-choice with Valencia, one of the biggest teams in Spain. Still only 24, the talented midfielder has proved a thorn in the side of many a Spanish defence with his gift for scoring magical goals and serving up pinpoint assists.

    His stock is rising all the time, though he believes he can achieve more after a season that ended in disappointment when Sevilla ousted Valencia from the UEFA Europa League semi-finals with a dramatic stoppage-time goal.

    Reflecting on that setback, he said: “I’m not happy with my season at Valencia because I wasn’t able to win my first trophy with the club. Sevilla knocked us out in the semi-finals, but we had a great run I think we deserved to make the final.”

    The experience and know-how Feghouli has acquired in the Spanish top flight will no doubt prove useful as he bids to guide Les Fennecs to their first world finals win since 1982. Voted Algerian Player of the Year in 2012, the Valencia wide man is now hoping to replicate the success he has had in Spain with his national side.

    “Playing in La Liga has really helped my game come on a lot because it’s one of the best leagues in the world,” he said. “This is my fourth season in Spain and I’m improving every year, all of which should help the national team. I just hope I can give them the little bit extra they need in the World Cup.”

    Grounds for optimism
    Algeria are set to take part in their fourth world finals, having appeared at Spain 1982, Mexico 1986 and South Africa 2010. Though Les Fennecs failed to win a game on their last appearance, Feghouli is confident Brazil 2014 will be an entirely different experience for the side and believes they have every chance of reaching the knockout phase. To do that they will need to take a top-two spot in Group H, where Belgium, Russia and Korea Republic will provide the opposition.

    Assessing their chances of doing just that, Feghouli, who made his Algeria debut two years ago, said: “I think we’ve got a great chance of reaching the second round of the World Cup. It’s an open group, although Belgium are the favourites. They’ve got a team full of great players who are all doing well in the big leagues.”

    He added: “All four teams could go through, but if we get our preparations right after a tough season, I feel things could swing in our favour.”

    Feghouli and his fellow Fennecs are not lacking in belief as they head to Brazil: “We are very optimistic. I love challenges and I play to win. Our sole objective is to qualify, and all the players are determined and ready to excel themselves and play some entertaining football for our fans. Our results haven’t been that great at previous World Cups and I just hope that Brazil will bring us some luck.”

    Whether Feghouli and his team-mates reach the last 16 or not, the enterprising midfielder will be doing all he can to show that he is one of Algerian football’s most valuable assets and to keep on breaking new ground in his hugely promising career.

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    Slimani: Algeria want to make history

    A rising name in European club football, Algeria's Islam Slimani could be a stand-out figure up front for his national team at the 2014 FIFA World Cup™, and the Sporting Lisbon star says that he and his teammates are looking to leave a mark in Brazil. “Algeria has never got past the first round, so that's our goal,” he told FIFA.com. “We are flying to Brazil with ambitions. It will be our fourth appearance at the finals. We all know about the victory against [West] Germany in 1982 with the likes of [Rabah] Madjer, [Salah] Assad or [Lakhdar] Belloumi. We all want to leave a trace in the history of Algerian football and follow in their footsteps.”

    Slimani, who will turn 26 during the finals, can look back at his first season in European football with some pride. Having signed for Sporting Lisbon in August last year from Algerian club CR Belouizdad, Slimani took a few weeks to break into the Sporting line-up, but once he managed to do that, there was no stopping him. After being used mainly as a substitute and scoring a number of goals from the bench, Slimani made the most of an opportunity that presented itself earlier this year as he was given a starting role in the team. He scored in four consecutive games in March, including a winner against Porto that helped Lisbon finish above the reigning champions. Slimani ended the season tied for the second most goals on the team, finding the net eight times in 26 appearances - 16 of which were from the bench.

    Sporting ended the season in second place behind Benfica, and the club's success has meant that many eyes have been focused on the talented attacking player. “This season, I discovered European football. I am happy with my first season during which I scored decisive goals. Sporting is a great team, and we managed to qualify for the next [UEFA] Champions League.” But Slimani has put any thought of participating in that tournament aside for the moment as he is concentrating solely on his contribution to the show-piece event of world football: the FIFA World Cup. The north Africans have been paired into Group H with Russia, Korea Republic and Belgium, whom many have earmarked as a dark horse in the competition. The 25-year-old said that Les Fennecs would not be scared of their opponents.

    “We do not want to have any regrets. We will play our game. We know that the group is difficult," Slimani said. "Belgium has great players like Eden Hazard and Vincent Kompany. They are the favourites in our group. I also know that South Korea is a very tough team, who have made it to the second round of the World Cup. Finally, Russia is a major nation. Fabio Capello knows us well as he played against the Algerian team in 2010 with England.” Slimani still remembers the 2010 World Cup finals when Algeria finished bottom of their group after losing against the USA and Slovenia and playing out a goalless draw with England. “At the time, I was playing in the third division, and I did not think for one second that I could be in Brazil four years later," he said. It is certain that this is a dream for all the players.

    "This will be the first time in my life that I go to Brazil. The opportunity of playing in Brazil means that I can play the World Cup in the country of football. I hope I’ll be up to the challenge on the field. My job is to score goals.” In the department of goal scoring, Slimani names Romario and Ronaldinho as great strikers, but his personal favourite is former Barcelona forward Ronaldo. “Undoubtedly," Slimani said. "He could do everything. He was just amazing. Too bad he was injured during a part of his career.”

    Slimani made his debut in the full Algerian side in May 2012 and scored his first international goal just a week later. He then played in all but one of Algeria's 2014 World Cup qualifiers, scoring five goals as the Foxes achieved their second consecutive appearance at the finals. The rising star says he is indebted to Bosnian coach Vahid Halilhozdic, who gave him his debut in the national team and will be leading Algeria in Brazil.

    “He gave me my chance and gave me confidence," Slimani said of Halilhozdic. "He is a coach who has great football experience. He is a former striker, and this makes him feel things better than anyone. It is clear that he brought a lot to Algeria.” As he heads into Algeria's first group game against Belgium on June 17, the striker is aware that there will be some pressure on the team to do well in Brazil. “For Algeria, it is an immense pride to play at the World Cup," he said. "When we play, we are constantly thinking of our people. We know that our country has come a long way and experienced very difficult things, so we will give all our heart.”

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    Feghouli: Little things make the difference

    Algerian supporters could be forgiven for approaching their country’s 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ opener against Belgium with some trepidation, given that their heroes were on the verge of being saddled with one of the competition’s most undesirable statistical records. If Les Fennecs had not found the net before the 36th minute, they would have endured the longest goalless sequence in World Cup history. Algeria hadn't scored at the tournament since Djamel Zidane's strike against Northern Ireland at Mexico 1986 - a run of 506 consecutive minutes of football - but with Bolivia's mark of 517 minutes looming, they finally found a way to goal.

    A penalty was awarded to the north Africans in the 25th minute of the Group H encounter, following a foul on Sofiane Feghouli by Belgian defender Jan Vertonghen. While the entire country held its breath, the dynamic playmaker picked himself up, kept his composure and slotted his spot kick to the right of the diving Thibaut Courtois. This was in stark contrast to the two Spanish League fixtures between Valencia and Atletico Madrid this season, in which the Algerian attacking midfielder had been unable to find a way past the commanding goalkeeper. “I’m so proud to have finally scored a goal for Algeria after that 28-year wait. It was one of the greatest moments of my career; the feeling of joy was indescribable,” Feghouli, 24, told FIFA.com after the match.

    “Representing Algeria at the World Cup is a dream I had as a young boy. I first started kicking a ball around in the street when I was little, and today, I scored a goal at the World Cup in Brazil. It’s amazing! The Algerian people had been waiting for that moment for a very long time,” he continued.

    Korean challenge
    Feghouli’s glee was short-lived, as Les Diables Rouges turned the match around completely in the second half, depriving the Algerians of a precious World Cup victory and extending their winless streak to seven. However, despite the 2-1 defeat, the former Grenoble player was pleased with the team’s efforts. “We held out for 70 minutes against one of the strongest nations at the World Cup. We learned a lot from the game. As a young side, we’ve got nothing to lose,” he explained. “It’s always disappointing to lose, but we need to take note of the positive aspects, especially in the way we played as a unit. We fought hard, demonstrating great teamwork, and that’s why I still think we can reach the Round of 16,” added the skilful African.

    In order to achieve that goal, Feghouli and his team-mates will have to get the better of Korea Republic on Sunday, who also have their eyes on qualification for the knockout stage. “There are no easy matches in this tournament; the level is extremely high,” he said. “We’re going to give 100 per cent versus the South Koreans. It’s often little things that make the difference, as we saw in the Belgium match. At this level, tiny mistakes can cost you dearly. We’re now very focused and plan to play in a different way, causing them problems and looking for the win. “We’re backed by 40 million fans back home, as well as the entire Arab world. We therefore have a big responsibility. We always try to give all we’ve got in every match so that they can be proud of us, and we’ve no intention of changing that habit,” concluded the Algerian No10, who made his international debut against Gambia in February 2012.

    Just as he did versus Belgium, Feghouli will be hopeful of writing a new chapter in the history of Algerian football and propelling his team-mates to their first World Cup success since a 3-2 triumph over Chile at Spain 1982.

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    Re: Feghouli: Little things make the difference

    thanks a lot for all saying about algeria football my friend and how the people like or ''love'' this attraction game...

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    Attack the best form of defence for Algeria

    It is never easy to bounce back from defeat in the opening group match at a FIFA World Cup™, especially after having led for over 70 minutes as Algeria did before succumbing 2-1 to Belgium on 17 June at the Estadio Mineirao in Belo Horizonte. What made that defeat even harder to swallow was the harsh press criticism aimed at Les Fennecs for sitting back and trying to hold onto their lead rather than push on and build on it. According to the detractors, Vahid Halilhodzic’s men might not have conceded late goals to Marouane Fellaini and Dries Mertens had they not handed the initiative to the Belgians.

    Indeed, some Algerian fans were reminded of their side’s disappointing start to their campaign in South Africa, when they went down to a tame 1-0 defeat at the hands of Slovenia. Much to the relief of those yearning for a more attacking approach, ‘Coach Vahid’ responded by naming an adventurous line-up for his side’s crucial second group encounter with Korea Republic at the Estadio Beira-Rio in Porto Alegre on Sunday 22 June. Abdelmoumene Djabou and Yacine Brahimi were handed starts, as was Islam Slimani - who had only been given 24 minutes against Belgium despite a series of excellent performances in World Cup qualifying.

    The ploy worked dividends as the Desert Warriors surprised the Taeguk Warriors by pressing them high up the pitch and putting them under pressure from the outset. The Koreans never got to grips with the tactics of an Algerian team that romped to a 4-2 success, the north Africans’ first win at the global showpiece in 32 years. Named Budweiser Man of the Match for his opening goal and assist to Djabou for his side’s third, Islam Slimani told FIFA.com: "It was a tough match against a very well-organised side. We took our chances and the four goals we scored were enough for us to take the three points.” The Sporting Lisbon striker added: "It doesn't matter who plays. We’re a strong squad, full of guys who play at top clubs. Any changes to the line-up today came about because we had to win this match, come what may."

    The right attacking balance
    Using his height (6’2) and strength to his advantage, Slimani caused the South Korean defence problems all game and was ably assisted by the livewire Brahimi, who consistently found space in dangerous areas. The latter crowned his display in the 62nd minute, when he collected a clever ball from Sofiane Feghouli and slipped the ball past Sungryong Jung in the Korean goal. Brahimi, who plays for Grenada in Spain’s Primera Division, is hoping for more in his side’s crucial third and final group match: "We played some very attacking football today, and we need to repeat that against Russia. It won’t be easy but it wasn't easy today either and that didn't stop us from keeping our calm and playing some good football."

    Madjid Bougherra could not hide his satisfaction when he spoke to FIFA.com: "I’m very proud to be the captain of an Algerian team that has won a World Cup match for the first time in 32 years. It's a great honour for me to make Algerian footballing history as part of this very close-knit squad who put in an exceptional performance. "We learnt the lessons from our first match,” added the defender who turns out for Qatari club side Lekhwiya. “The most important thing is for us to play our own game and also play to our strengths. We have made our fans happy with this win and we now have a chance to make it through to the Round of 16, but we need to forget about this victory over Korea first and get our feet back on the ground.” Bougherra concluded with a short but optimistic answer to the question as to whether Algeria can be quite so impressive against Russia. “Inshallah,” he replied, with a smile.

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    Djabou: Russia will come at Algeria

    Algeria midfielder Abdelmoumene Djabou had to learn the value of hard graft and perseverance as he sought recognition for his talents. Far from a headline-maker when he started out with ES Setif, he then had to endure an aborted transfer to Swiss side Sion, before finally hitting his stride in his two seasons since a 2012 switch to Club Africain. Despite sparkling performances for the Tunisian outfit, Djabou missed the cut as Algeria travelled to the CAF Africa Cup of Nations 2013. Vahid Halilhodzic doubted the 27-year-old's capacity to influence a match for more than ten minutes, but Djabou stuck at his task, determined to change the Bosnian coach's mind. His reward duly came when Les Fennecs (Desert Foxes) unveiled their 23-man party for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™.

    That proved to be only half the battle, however, as Djabou had to watch from the bench as his team-mates lost their opening game. With just eight caps to his name before the tournament began, the diminutive winger was overlooked for the 2-1 loss to Belgium, with Leicester City's Riyad Mahrez starting on the left flank instead. Again, Djabou resolved to roll up his sleeves and get to work. As German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche once said, 'What does not kill me makes me stronger', and the Setif native took that sentiment to heart as he redoubled his efforts in training. His dedication soon bore fruit, and when Halilhodzic pinned up his starting line-up to face Group H rivals Korea Republic, Djabou's name featured on the team-sheet.

    "I was very happy, but at the same time I was under a lot of pressure because it was a huge responsibility," he told FIFA.com, recalling the moment when he learned of his inclusion. "Lots of supporters suggested I should play in the second match and that motivated me." Djabou did not disappoint as he proved a constant menace for the Taeguk Warriors in a 4-2 victory. It was from his corner, in fact, that Rafik Halliche headed in Algeria's second goal on 28 minutes. Ten minutes later, Djabou then added the third goal himself, which he reacted to by rushing towards the Algeria bench to celebrate with Halilhodzic.

    He said: "Against Belgium, we put too much emphasis on defence and sat too deep, which had a negative impact on our forwards. By contrast, we started the game against Korea Republic with a lot of energy and played attacking football. That allowed us to score four goals and, thanks to God, I contributed to the win." For all his delight at his own contribution, though, Djabou was quick to shift the focus back on to the team's achievement: "At the end of the day, we're a tight squad with players who complement each other well. The important thing is to have won."

    The challenge now for Les Fennecs is to build on that triumph against Russia at the Arena da Baixada in Curitiba on Thursday. A positive result would almost certainly send them through to the Round of 16 for the first time in their history, but Djabou is braced for a stern examination – not least since Russia have their backs to the wall. "It's going to be a very difficult match as the Russians absolutely have to win if they want to qualify for the next round," he commented. "I hope it's our day and that we'll rise to the challenge. Russia will take the initiative to come at us. We'll have to be wary because they have some great players. We'll try to surprise them."

    Whether Djabou himself gets to feature or not, he hopes his presence at Brazil 2014 will facilitate his switch to a European club. "I've been playing in Tunisia for two seasons and it's a good league, but my dream is to play in Europe," he said, with his sights set above all on Spain, where his Algeria colleagues Sofiane Feghouli, Yacine Brahimi, Liassine Cadamuro and Medhi Lacen are all based. "I hope we qualify for the Round of 16 because that would surely spark some interest from the European leagues." Clearly ambitious, all that remains now for Djabou is to seize his chance, and if past experience is anything to by, that is unlikely to pose too much of a problem.

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    Halilhodzic: Russia match could be historic

    Algeria coach Vahid Halilhodzic hopes his side can better their country's "super" team of the 1982 FIFA World Cup™ by qualifying for the second round for the first time in their history when they face Russia on Thursday. The Desert Foxes will seal their place in the Round of 16 with a win, but should just need a draw barring a heavy victory for South Korea over Belgium. Algeria missed out on the second round 32 years ago on goal difference after West Germany and Austria played out a 1-0 win for the Germans in the last group game seeing both sides progressing..

    "We have spoken a lot about the 1982 generation and that was a super team," said Halilhodzic. "So that was the first Algerian team to succeed so impressively and we will see their heirs tomorrow. "I think it is probably the most important match of my career, but it is also the most important match for Algeria. It is a qualification match for the second round and when I see great champions being eliminated already and the Algerian team now looking to get to the second round it is a historical match."

    For Fabio Capello's Russia, the match represents a final chance to rectify two disappointing results as they were held 1-1 by Korea Republic before being beaten 1-0 by Divock Origi's winner for Belgium two minutes from time on Sunday. A lot more had been expected of Capello's men after an impressive record in qualifying, which saw them top their group ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal. However, Halilhodzic believes they have deserved more from their opening two games, particularly against Belgium.

    "Russia is certainly not a small country in football and I have watched all their matches since the qualification round. They topped their group and have one of the best coaches in the world. They deserved more in the match against Belgium. They counter-attacked very well and we suffered with that against Belgium too." For the second time this week neither side was able to train on the pitch in the Arena da Baixada the day before the game and Halilhodzic is concerned it could affect his more technically gifted players. "I went to see the pitch and it is not in great condition, so I have asked them to water it. We have technical advantages and I hope my players will be able to cope with that kind of pitch and show their talent."

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