At halftime: Furious Algerian pressure overwhelms South Korea for 3-0 lead

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Story of the game: Algeria made significant attacking changes to their lineup, and boy did it pay off in the first 45 minutes against South Korea.

With both group underdogs looking to take three points from this crucial match if they are to have any hope at a surprise knockout phase appearance, the Algerians clearly wanted it more. They played a smash-and-grab attack and caught the South Koreans completely off guard.

Islam Slimani, on the bench for Algeria’s first match, got the start up front and played beautifully, picking up a goal and assist in the first half.


26′ – After poking just about every pressure point in the South Korean defense, Algeria found their breakthrough straight up the middle.  A long ball up the gut found a charging Slimani, and he powered his way through a pair of defenders unable to keep up, and touched the ball past the keeper for the opener.

28′ – Algeria weren’t finished, and their attacking flair earned another goal. A corner flew into the South Korean box, and goalkeeper Jung Sung-Ryong misjudged the flight of the ball. He came out too far for the punch, and Algerian defender Rafik Halliche beat him to the ball and scored with a powerful header.

38′ – Slimani cut through the South Korean defense, and the Algerians continued their blitzkrieg. In space in the box, he brilliantly touched the ball with the outside of his foot across two defenders to a wide-open Abdelmoumene Djabou for an easy low finish.

Other key moments:

4′ – Algeria started the much better and more attacking side, and nearly produced a goal right away.  Sofiane Fegouhli was brought down in the box but no foul called by the Colombian referee.  Yacine Brahimi ended up scuffing the shot over.

9′ – With Algeria still asking all the questions, a corner found Islam Slimani at the far post, but his free header went just wide and into the side netting.


South Korea: S R Jung, S Y Yun, Y G Kim, H M Son, C Y Park, Y Lee, J C Koo, K Y Han, S Y Ki, C Y Lee, J H Hong.

Algeria: Mbolhi, Bouguerra, Halliche, Mesbah, Feghouli, Brahimi, Medjani, Slimani, Bentaleb, Djabou, Mandi.

Goals – Slimani 26′, Halliche 28′, Djabou 38′

Key players:

  • Islam Slimani – By far the most dangerous Algerian in the first half, he was incisive on the ball and smart off it.  He found spaces in every situation he was put in, and has his country well in front.
  • Sofiane Feghouli – With both pressure in the midfield and chances at the front, Feghouli shadowed Slimani and proved dangerous in doing so.

Numbers to know:

  • 86% – The passing accuracy of Algeria, 14% better than their full opening match against Belgium.
  • 25 – The number of successful attacking-third passes for Algeria in the first half, 20 of which came on the left flank.
  • 8 – The amount of touches South Korean star Son Heung-Min had in the first half (7 passes received, 1 interception), one of which came in the Algerian box. He did not produce a shot.

Questions for the second half:

  • Can Algeria maintain this heavy pressure for another 45 minutes? Smash-and-grab is exhausting, and the Algerians clearly worked incredibly hard to build this lead. The biggest question for them is will they change things up and sit back to hold on, or will they continue to pour on the pressure and risk getting tired very early?
  • Is South Korea emotionally sunk? Anytime a team falls behind by three goals this early, it’s always a valid to ask if they’re too far back, physically and emotionally.  Can they break through this furious Algerian pressure to get their forwards the ball?

Can says he wants to play for “very big club” next year

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Liverpool swing man Emre Can – whose contract expires this summer – has not yet found a club to sign with yet, and the future free agent is playing up his own talents while looking for a new home.

“I have the self-confidence to say that my qualities are sufficient to play in a very big club next season,” Can told German newspaper Suddeutche Zeitung. “I’m doing great in England. The Spanish league is also attractive. The same applies to Germany, where tactics are concerned, and the Italian club football, which has recently caught up.”

“Incidentally, the same applies to France, this league has now established itself as one of the best in Europe. Therefore, I do not want to exclude anything.”

However, Can also said that the Premier League’s spending power plays a major role, and singled out the German top flight – his home country – for its inability to pay top players.

“Sure, the Bundesliga would interest me, why not? Although I must say honestly that the level has waned in recent years,” he said. “The Premier League has the power to spend more money on players than the Bundesliga. This is very, very important for players.”

Despite those comments, the 24-year-old insists that money is not the ultimate deciding factor in where he will play.

“What counts for me is that I’m an integral part of the team and at a club with a chance of winning the title,” he added. “That’s what every footballer dreams of because that’s the reward of your hard work.”

Can has not ruled out a return to Liverpool, a club that he says “still feels like family.”

Wales boss Giggs claims he wont give in to commercial pressure to play Bale

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Wales is among the field of the China Cup, an international tournament in Guangxi, China, to play a pair of international friendlies this week.

New manager Ryan Giggs admitted there is outside pressure to play Gareth Bale in the event at some point, but admitted he will not put the Real Madrid star at risk just to appease sponsors. In fact, the only pressure he’s feeling is from himself.

“Any risks, stupid risks, I won’t be taking,” Giggs said. “But it’s also my first game and I want to get my best team out there.”

Wales missed out on the 2018 World Cup, and there’s little to gain from having Bale out on the field the entire time. Wales will play China in the semifinals on Thursday, and then meets the winner of Uruguay and Czech Republic next week.

According to reports, Wales would lose nearly $150,000 of its $1.5 million participation fee if Bale did not play.

“I’ve not spoken to [Real Madrid manager Zinedine] Zidane, but I’ve spoken to Gareth,” Giggs said. “I’ve been in contact with him regularly in the last few months and I’m not stupid because it’s an important part of the season.”

Bale has been smothered by injuries – mostly calf problems – during his Real Madrid career, missing a stretch of over two months through October and November with hamstring issues. He has been fit since, but Zidane rarely risks Bale for the full 90 minutes. In fact, Bale’s only three full 90’s of the 2018 calendar year have all come in the last three weeks.

The 28-year-old has three goals in his last five La Liga games, including one off the bench in a 6-3 win over Girona last weekend.

International preview: What is to come over the next week

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With the 2018 World Cup less than three months away, countries are taking these last moments to see players within their selection pool and make tweaks to the squad and tactics.

This week’s international window has already kicked off with the likes of South Africa, Liechtenstein, and Andorra taking the opportunity to see the field, and World Cup countries take the field tomorrow – two, to be exact. And they play each other.

Denmark and Panama meet in a rare friendly between countries set to take part in the summer festivities, with the match taking place in Bronby at 3pm ET. The two countries chose to play knowing they cannot possibly meet in Russia 2018 until at least the quarterfinals, with their respective Groups C and G split apart across the knockout rounds.

The hosts are fantastic from set-pieces and focus their attack around Tottenham star Christian Eriksen. Panama’s midfield rock Gabriel Gomez will likely be tasked with keeping Eriksen quiet, something the Republic of Ireland was unable to do last time Denmark took the field as Eriksen bagged a hat-trick. Defender Andreas Christensen is headed towards the World Cup in fantastic form with Chelsea, having earned a starting spot with the Blues. With some injuries at the back, Christensen has also played out wide along the back line before as well, something to keep watch for.

On Friday, the heavyweights begin to see the field as Uruguay hosts Czech Republic. The South American nation received a friendly draw in World Cup Group A, but brought in a solid European side to match wits with after the Czechs finished third in their qualifying group. Japan also takes to the pitch on Friday, playing Mali on a neutral field in Belgium. The Japanese will need to be at the top of their game come summer, matched into Group H against Colombia, Poland, and Senegal.

England and Argentina have both scheduled games against European sides that disappointed by failing to make the 2018 tournament. On Friday, England travels to Amsterdam to take on a Netherlands squad in turmoil, while Argentina travels to the Etihad to meet Italy.

Russia and Brazil meet in Moscow on Friday, with over 50,000 tickets already reportedly sold for the match at Luzhniki Stadium. The hosts will then get another stiff test as they take on France four days later on Tuesday. If Russia’s squad has lots of work to do before hosting the World Cup, we’ll know in a week.

The main event on Friday will be Germany and Spain meeting in Dusseldorf in a matchup of the last two World Cup winners. Germany will be without Manuel Neuer and Marco Reus, but still fields one of the deepest squads in the entire world. The Germans don’t then get the week off, having to meet Brazil on Tuesday. If Jogi Low’s side comes out of those matches on top, they could cement their status as favorites headed into the summer.

France has a stiff test as well, meeting Colombia on Friday. Like Denmark and Panama, the two countries reside in Groups C and H, meaning they could not rematch in the World Cup until at least the quarterfinals. The French then go to take on Russia next week.


Denmark vs. Panama
Slovakia vs. UAE
China vs. Wales
Algeria vs. Tanzania
Malta vs. Luxembourg

Germany vs. Spain
Italy vs. Argentina
Russia vs. Brazil
Netherlands vs. England
France vs. Colombia
Portugal vs. Egypt
Uruguay vs. Czech Republic
Mexico vs. Ireland
Poland vs. Nigeria
Austria vs. Slovenia
Peru vs. Croatia
Austria vs. Slovenia
Greece vs. Switzerland
Norway vs. Australia
Mali vs. Japan

Sweden vs. Chile

Kuwait vs. Cameroon
Nicaragua vs. Cuba

Portugal vs. Netherlands
Bulgaria vs. Kazakhstan

Russia vs. France
Germany vs. Brazil
England vs. Italy
Spain vs. Argentina
United States vs. Paraguay
Tunisia vs. Costa Rica
Colombia vs. Australia
Belgium vs. Saudi Arabia
Egypt vs. Greece
Denmark vs. Chile
Japan vs. Ukraine

Alexis Sanchez says he “expected better” from himself at Manchester United

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Alexis Sanchez isn’t happy with his performance so far at Manchester United.

The Chilean superstar has scored just one goal for the Red Devils in 10 appearances since joining from Arsenal, and the club has lost three of those games and has been knocked out of the Champions League by Sevilla.

Speaking with Chilean media on national team duty in Sweden, Sanchez said he expects more of himself and that he’s so far let himself down. “As I am self-demanding, I expected something better,” Sanchez said. “After my arrival at United, it was hard to change everything very quickly. I even hesitated to come here [to join the national team].”

Chile missed out on World Cup qualification, and has friendlies with Sweden and Denmark scheduled over the next week. With so little at stake, Sanchez was poised to take time off from the national team, but says he was convinced by Manchester City goalkeeper and Chilean captain Claudio Bravo to stick it out.

“The change of club was something that was very abrupt – it was the first time I’ve changed clubs in January – but many things have happened in my life that are difficult,” Sanchez said. “I had asked permission to miss these games, but then I thought better and spoke with Claudio and told him that we should all be united.”

Once the international break is over, Manchester United resumes Premier League play against Swansea at the end of March before an April 7th derby meeting with Manchester City.