Algeria's Islam Slimani, right, scores his side's first goal during the group H World Cup soccer match between Algeria and Russia at the Arena da Baixada in Curitiba, Brazil, Thursday, June 26, 2014. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

Slimani header gives Algeria draw with Russia, country’s first place in knockout round

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For the first time in the country’s history, Algeria has advanced into the knockout round, but having given up a goal within six minutes today in Curitiba, Brazil, the Fennec Foxes were forced to do it the hard way. At the hour-mark, however, a converted set piece allowed the North Africans to turn around Russia’s early opener, giving them the 1-1 draw they needed to clinch Group H’s second place at the 2014 World Cup.

Russian attacker Aleksandr Kokorin converted the first chance of the match in the sixth minute, heading home from the middle of Algeria’s penalty area off Dmitri Kombarov’s cross, making it 1-0. Fifteen minutes into the second half, the Algerians had their own headed goal when Islam Slimani beat Kombarov at the far post on a Yacine Brahimi restart. When Vahid Halilhodzic’s team made that goal stand up, Algeria had reached its first knockout round in four World Cups.

The means Algeria will face Group G-winning Germany on Monday in Porto Alegre, the countries’ first competitive meeting since the teams were grouped together in 1982. The year, Germany colluded with Austria in the stage’s final match to keep the Fennec Foxes out of the second round, a scandal that led FIFA to schedule final group matches with simultaneous kickoffs.

For Russia, the countdown to 2018 begins, but after failing to get out of Group H, the federation will likely take a new look at the program’s direction under Fabio Capello.

[ RELATED: World Cup news, analysis from Soccerly ]

The match’s settling-in period was cut short when Russia struck for its early opener. After getting forward down the left flank, Russian fullback Kombarov fired a cross toward the penalty spot, where Kokorin was able to run onto the ball at 12 yards out. Redirecting his shot inside Raïs M’Bolhi’s right post, the young Russia attacker gave his team its first lead of the tournament, a 1-0 advantage in the match’s sixth minute.

An Algerian corner in the 29th minute nearly pulled the Fennec Foxes even, but despite seeing Igor Akinfeev tested three times in the half, the Russians were able to take their one-goal lead into intermission, leaving them 45 minutes from a place in the knockout round.

Fifteen minutes later, Algeria had finally beaten Akinfeev. Off a restart from Brahimi from deep down the left flank, Slimani was left one-on-one against Kombarov at the far post. Beating the Russian defender to a ball Akinfeev failed to punch, the Algerian striker headed his equalizer into the empty net to make it 1-1.

Though Russia’s intensity increased in the wake of Slimani’s goal, the team’s next real chance didn’t come until the 70th minute, when an Aleksandr Kerzhakov shot from the right of goal was smothered by M’Bolhi. Four minutes later, Sophiane Feghouli was testing Akinfeev at the other end of the field, with Russia’s desperation unable to claim control of the game.

By full-time, that desperation had failed to make its mark. Russia finished the game with fewer shots on target (4-6), with only a 90th minute corner headed wide of M’Bolhi’s right post giving the 2018 hosts a chance of reclaiming their lead. When the final whistle was blown, Russia left Brazil 2014 with two points, two goals, and two losses.

Algeria, on the other hand, will play on. Finishing their group stage with four points, the Foxes get their first taste of knockout round soccer. Germany will be a huge obstacle, but it will be one that’s embraced by a team few picked to escape their group. Algeria gets its chance at revenge.

Lineups

Algeria: M’Bohli; Mandi, Belkalem, Halliche, Mesbah, Bentaleb, Medjani; Feghouli, Brahimi (Yebda 71′), Djabou (Ghilas 77′); Slimani (Soudani 86′)

Goals: Slimani 60′

Russia: Akinfeev; Kozlov, Berezutski, Ignashevich, Kombarov; Glushakov (Denisov 46′), Fayzulin; Samedov, Shatov (Dzagoev 67′), Kokorin; Kerzhakov (Kanunnikov 81′)

Goals: Kokorin 6′

CONCACAF Champions League gets reboot; MLS benefits

Seattle Sounders forward Clint Dempsey, right, clears the ball away from Club America midfielder Rubens Sambueza (14) during the first half of a CONCACAF Champions League soccer quarterfinal, Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2016, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
AP Photo/Ted S. Warren
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Changes to the CONCACAF Champions League will benefit Major League Soccer in a big way.

Long requested by MLS, the North American league will only have to send its clubs to the CCL for the final four rounds, which will be home-and-away affairs.

Previously, clubs competed in a group stage from August to October, then joined the knockout rounds in February.

[ MORE: Transfer window names to watch ]

While MLS sides may still be just starting their seasons and have to contend with clubs who have been playing meaningful games, they will also be less likely to draw successful Liga MX sides in the Round of 16.

All of the details are here, but here’s a simplified takeaway:

— The 16 teams that qualify for the CCL, which will begin in February, will include four U.S. teams, one Canadian team, and four Mexican teams.

— The next six sides will be the Caribbean Club Championship winner and the champions of Costa Rica, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Panama.

— The remaining side will win its spot via a new tournament which includes 13 Central American teams and three from the Caribbean.

For those of us hoping to see an MLS side in the Club World Cup, the odds will become better come the 2018 CCL. As for this year, MLS will again have to deal with the split season.

Ten names to watch in Premier League transfer window

BERGAMO, ITALY - DECEMBER 11:  Franck Kessie of Atalanta BC in action during the Serie A match between Atalanta BC and Udinese Calcio at Stadio Atleti Azzurri d'Italia on December 11, 2016 in Bergamo, Italy.  (Photo by Dino Panato/Getty Images)
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National team veterans from France, England, and Spain are in a 10-man mix of players we think could have big impacts on the fortunes of teams in the Premier League this January transfer window.

[ MORE: Transfer rumor roundup ]

10) Lassana Diarra, Marseille — Twice in London, the French-born midfielder is said to be interesting Manchester United and Valencia amongst others.

9) Leonardo Ulloa, Leicester City — The pressure doesn’t get to the Foxes’ 30-year-old striker, who has scored plenty of big goals for Leicester City. Might he be the perfect bench piece to push a team into the second half of the season? Spanish side Alaves have reportedly had a $2 million bid rejected by Leicester.

8) Phil Jagielka, Everton — Older, yes, but the English national team veteran could be just what the doctor-ordered for relegation candidates and lower-half sides looking for a PL-experienced CB.

7) Victor Lindelof, Benfica — His arrival at Old Trafford went from Tomorrowland to Lost in recent weeks, but Jose Mourinho could still act to bring in the center back before the summer.

6) Scott Hogan, Brentford — The Championship striker isn’t quite as prominent in the rumor mill as Jordan Rhodes was last season, but the 24-year-old could be a promising buy for a PL side. West Ham is said to have the inside track.

5) Goncalo Guedes, Benfica — As for Lindelof’s teammate, Guedes was tipped to join Manchester United with his center back. Will another side jump into the fray before Guedes joins Jose Mourinho at Old Trafford? Paris Saint-Germain is said to be interested.

4) Franck Kessie, Atalanta — The defensive midfielder has chipped in six goals for his Serie A side, and has been the major reason for Atalanta’s run into the top half.

3) Robert Snodgrass, Hull City — The Scottish wizard has been a big part of what little success has come the Tigers way this season, but West Ham and several other Premier League sides are tempting Hull.

2) Alvaro Morata, Real Madrid — He starred for Juventus last season and triggered a Real Madrid return. Slowed by an Achilles injury for much of this season, he’s been tipped for a summer move to Chelsea. If it can happen then… why not now? The Blues could order the title confetti if they landed the Spanish striker.

1) Dimitri Payet, West Ham United — Yes, we’re tired of his act — and reading about it — but Payet is a game-changer who could inject excitement into any offense in the world. If Marseille wants him, it had better pay up.

Transfer rumor roundup: Man City after two backs; Zelalem to Holland?

NAPLES, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 17: Napolis player Faouzi Ghoulam vies with Bologna FC player Simone Verdi during the Serie A match between SSC Napoli and Bologna FC at Stadio San Paolo on September 17, 2016 in Naples, Italy.  (Photo by Francesco Pecoraro/Getty Images)
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Here are your transfer rumor headlines on a day when Gerard Deulofeu moves to AC Milan and Lazar Markovic heads to Hull City on loan.

[ MORE: Three players leave USMNT camp ]

Two Premier Leaguers could be heading down to help the Championship leaders. Newcastle United is said to be close to bringing Andros Townsend back from Crystal Palace after just a half-season, while Swansea City’s Mo Barrow is also on Rafa Benitez‘s radar.

An Arsenal blog says USMNT prospect Gedion Zelalem may have found his loan destination. The 19-year-old could be leaving the Emirates Stadium for a loan stint at VVV Venlo, with the Dutch side sitting first in the second tier and in a promotion push.

The Manchester Evening News brings reports of two backs on the radar of Manchester City. Rai Sport is the source for Man City’s interest in Napoli left back Faouzi Ghoulam, who has six assists in 21 appearances for Partenopei between Serie A and the UEFA Champions League. Pep Guardiola may also want to be reunited with Juan Bernat, though that story comes from the wild swings of The Daily Mirror.

Sunderland is going to lose one of its two brightest lights in a dark, dismal season. The Black Cats have taken a lot of calls on Jermain Defoe, but it’s Patrick Van Aanholt who is on the move to rejoin Sam Allardyce at Crystal Palace. The Dutch standout is said to be purchased for $15 million, and would be the equivalent of a transfer six-pointer in the Premier League’s relegation race.

Report: West Ham turns down another Payet bid

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 14:  The Dimitri Payet of West Ham United sign is seen outside the stadium prior to the Premier League match between West Ham United and Crystal Palace at London Stadium on January 14, 2017 in London, England.  (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)
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West Ham United has rejected a third bid for wantaway midfielder Dimitri Payet, according to Sky Sports.

Marseille upped the ante to $28 million when it comes to the French midfielder, who has said he wants to go back to the club for “family reasons“.

[ MORE: Three players leave USMNT camp ]

Payet was given a $1.2 million loyalty bonus from West Ham earlier this season, but has continually tempted the rumor mill. He’s also winked at Arsenal.

He has 15 goals in parts of two seasons with the Irons, the same figure he boasted in two full years with Marseille. Payet has also played Lille, Saint-Etienne, Nantes, and AS Excelsior.

It’s been a rocky month for Payet, who could be doomed to purgatory at West Ham. Will any Premier League suitors come calling at the Irons’ $38 million asking price.