Algeria shredded an unwanted statistic in Porto Alegre as they ended their long wait for a first World Cup victory since the 1982 finals in Spain.
They did it in emphatic fashion too, becoming the first African team to score four goals in a World Cup game as they tore South Korea apart with an outstanding first-half performance that earned them a 3-0 lead at the break through goals from Islam Slimani, Rafik Halliche and Abdelmoumene Djabou.
In a less one-sided second period, Son Heung-min and Koo Ja-cheol struck for the Asian side but Yacine Brahimi’s goal in between ended any real doubt about the outcome.
It was a triumph for coach Vahid Halilhodzic, who saw three of the five changes made to his starting XI – Slimani, Djabou and Brahimi – all score as Algeria climbed into second place in Group H.
If they beat Russia in Curitiba on Friday, they will achieve the passage to the second round that their 1982 forebears were denied by that infamous Anschluss game between Germany and Austria.
That team, spearheaded by African Footballer of the Year Lakhdar Belloumi, won twice at the Spain 82 tournament but Algeria have struggled on the world stage since then.
Indeed prior to Sofiane Feghouli’s penalty against Belgium in their opening game, they had not scored a World Cup goal since 1986, posting three blanks in South Africa. Here in Brazil, though, they are making amends for that.
This was a display from the north Africans that provided the perfect riposte to criticism from the Algerian press of coach Halilhodzic’s perceived negative tactics in their opening loss to Belgium. The coach himself maintained it was his young side’s inexperience and stage fright that caused them to sit back on a lead they could not hold but there were no signs of nerves here as they tore into South Korea from the start.
The Koreans had a double let-off in the fifth minute when Kim Young-gwon felled Feghouli in the box – no penalty given – and Yacine Brahimi drove the loose ball over. Slimani then missed a free header and failed to control an Aissa Mandi ball in front of goal, but a template of Algerian dominance was set and the Desert Foxes soon had the goals their pacy, purposeful football warranted.
The first was borne out of Slimani’s hunger, strength and speed as from Carl Medjani’s ball over the top, he outpaced the two Korean centre-backs and flicked the ball over goalkeeper Jung Sung-ryong. The Sporting Lisbon striker was Algeria’s top scorer in qualifying and has reportedly attracted West Ham’s attention and on this evidence it was not hard to see why.
Two minutes later, Algeria had a second goal, with the help of some poor goalkeeping by Jung who came out to punch a corner but was left red-faced as Halliche simply got in front of him to head into the empty net.
Algeria were fast, incisive and swarming all over their opponents, who did not help themselves with their defending. This was illustrated by the third goal after 37 minutes when the Korean centre-backs failed to deal with a long ball and Slimani and Djabou exchanged passes for the latter to roll a precise first-time finish low past Jung and into the bottom corner.
Korea had to get better and they did, and this time it was Algeria’s defending that let them down as Son pulled a goal back four minutes after the restart. Fouad Bouguerra let a long ball sail behind him and Son got lucky as the ball bounced off his back and into his path. He took it under control and drove a powerful shot through the legs of Rais M’Bolhi at his near post.
It was a different contest now. The Algerians’ intensity levels dropped and Korea were seeing more of the ball. Ki Sung-yueng nearly pulled another goal back with a superb 30-yard drive matched by a flying save from M’Bolhi.
Yet when Algeria did get out of their half they made the Koreans pay with the killer fourth goal after 61 minutes from the Granada midfielder Brahimi, who surged into the box on a one-two with Feghouli and slipped the ball past Jung. Korea had another goal when captain Koo turned a cross from Lee Keun-ho over the line but this was Algeria’s day.