Algeria moved tantalizingly close to their first-ever appearance in a FIFA World Cup last-16 round after dishing out a 4-2 defeat to South Korea in Porto Alegre, Brazil, on Sunday.
It was the North African side’s first World Cup win since their famous 1982 success against West Germany and also the first time that an African squad has scored four goals in a tournament match.
First-half goals from Islam Slimani, Rafik Halliche and Abdelmoume Djabou did the damage and put South Korea on their knees at the break. Son Heung-min and Koo Ja-cheol gave the Asian side some hope in the second half, but Yacine Brahimi’s fourth for Algeria kept the Desert Foxes in charge.
The result pushed Algeria up to second in Group H, behind only Belgium and with Russia and South Korea trailing on one point apiece.
On a perfect afternoon at the Estadio Beira Rio, Algeria came out fighting for survival, only too aware that a loss would send them home.
Sofiane Feghouli and Slimani tested South Korea ’keeper Jung Sung-ryong in the opening minutes, before Algeria’s pleas for a penalty on five minutes in a chaotic goalmouth scramble were rejected by Colombian referee Wilmar Roldan.
Nevertheless, their impressive start reaped its initial reward when Slimani raced onto Carl Medjani’s lob, saw off defenders Hong Jeong-ho and Kim Young-won and flicked the ball past Jung.
The rattled Taegeuk Warriors were picking the ball out of their net again two minutes later when Halliche out-jumped his markers to head in Djabou’s corner from the left.
The Desert Foxes had their tails up and as South Korea struggled to cope with their pace and technical nous, Djabou tightened his side’s grip on the game when sweeping the ball past the hapless Jung eight minutes from the break, thanks to the slide rule assist from Slimani.
South Korea reduced the deficit five minutes into the second courtesy of an individual piece of wizardry by Son. A long ball into the box by Ki Sung-yeung bounced off his back, but he swiveled round to fend off Madjid Bougherra and shoot low and hard past Algeria goalkeeper Rais Mbolhi.
The Asian side kept putting the heat on Algeria and Mbolhi made a brilliant save to deny Ki, but Brahimi’s right-footed finish after a slick passing move between him and Feghouli settled any Algeria jitters.
Koo scored for the 2002 semi-finalists, but Algeria refused to let the chance to make history slip by.