by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (June 22nd 2014)
Itʼs a cliché, but it remains apt. This was a game of two halves. In the first Algeria dominated South Korea. They led 3-0 and could perhaps have had a penalty as well. South Korea regrouped during the interval and came out fighting for their future in the tournament. They outscored Algeria 2-1, but despite demanding a clearance off the goal-line and an outstanding save from Algeriaʼs keeper the mountain proved too high.
Vahid Halihodžić rung in the changes since the naïve defeat to Belgium – five of them – and they paid off as Algeria claimed their first win in the World Cup Finals for 32 years. Trailing 3-0 at half time South Korea changed their mindset and chased an unlikely come-back. A cheeky free-kick had to be cleared off the line and Raïs MʼBoli had to be at his acrobatic best to deny Ki Sung-yongʼs long distance effort, but Halihodžićʼs team held on for a famous 4-2 win, their first since being the victims of a shameful fix in 1982 – one that rightly changed the format of the last round of group stage matches.
The defending may have naïve on occasion, but this was an immensely entertaining match – everything Belgium versus Russia was not. Kim Young-gwon was fortunate not to concede a penalty after his challenge on Valenciaʼs Sofiane Feghouli. It eventually broke to Yacine Brahimi, who shot over Valenciennesʼ Carl Medjaniʼs 40 yard pass released Islam Slimani to open the scoring with just under half an hour played.
Less that two minutes later Abdelmouméne Djabouʼs corner was headed in by Rafik Halliche. South Koreaʼs goalkeeper Jung Sung-ryong was caught in no-manʼs land as he came and failed to make contact. Algeria were two up in les than half an hour and it soon got worse. A long ball was badly defended falling to Slimani, who squared for Djabou to make it three with almost ten minutes left of the first half.
Five minutes into the second half the come-back was on. Kiʼs long pass was controlled in his own way by Bayer Leverkusenʼs Son Heung-min who then beat MʼBoli to engender belief, but two minutes after a fantastic save by MʼBoli, Slimani and Brahimi exchange passes before Brahimi capped of his performance with the goal he deserved. Feghouli got the assist.
An incisive move by South Korea was capped off with a goal as the Koreansʼ pressing paid off. Son made a nuisance of himself, which allowed substitute Lee Keun-ho to square for an easy tap-in for Koo Ja-cheol. With 20 minutes remaining the scoring was over and the Desert Foxes held on for a famous win. There was still time for Medjani to leave Son with a pained expression on his face when he went down and did not get a penalty from Colombian referee Wilmar Roldán.