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′
- 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?