Algeria played Russia to a 1-1 draw Thursday, ensuring their spot in the knockout round. But it wasn't easy.
The Algerians fell behind 1-0 early -- very early -- after a Russia free kick was headed in by Alexander Kokorin. The Russians held the lead until halftime, dominating possession throughout the first half.
The game seemed headed on a similar track in the second half, as Russia came out firing early. Russia really should have put a second goal in, but Algeria keeper Adi Mbolhi made a nice save to keep Russia at just one goal.
Islam Slimani had the decisive goal for Algeria, heading in a service ball that was badly misplayed by Russia keeper Igor Akinfeev. It hasn't been the best tournament for Akinfeev, whose made great saves but allowed a few howlers.
In any event, the Algerians did just enough to move through to the Round of 16, where they will face Germany Monday.
FINAL: Russia 1 (Kokorin 6') - Algeria 1 (Slimani 60')
90' -- Scary header in by Kozlov off a corner, but it sails wide. Mbolhi probably would have gotten to it, anyway.
89' -- Russia has had some chances late, but bad balls in and poor touches have been their undoing.
87' -- Russia wins a free kick in a good spot, just wide of the box.
82' -- Russia earns a corner and promptly boots it out of bounds. (It was a bad corner.)
78' -- Tough ball in, but Russia had a decent chance in the box. Lost to the keeper, though. Just over 10 furious minutes remaining.
74' -- Decent chance for Algeria to put this one on ice, but Feghouli's shot doesn't have quite enough pace.
70' -- Good strike from Russia barely stopped by Mbolhi. We're now down to 20 minutes or so for Russia to score.
62' -- Scary shot in by Russia, but Mbolhi able to corral it. 30 minutes of Algeria trying to hold on ahead.
60' -- And there it is. Monster goal by Slimani, who nods in a nice free kick from the edge. Algeria now in position to go through. That goal has been a while coming.
58' -- Decent free kick position for Algeria, but they're whistled for a foul in the box. Time keeps ticking against them...
53' -- Better attack from Algeria, and if they can just manage to pull even they're through. Can't overstate how much the earlier opportunity for Russia was wasted. Could come back to bite them.
47' -- Somehow -- not sure how -- Russia didn't score just now. Great build up spoiled as Samedov wastes a perfect give-and-go with a weak shot at goal. Nice save by Mbolhi.
46' -- Back at it. Algeria needs a goal or they're done.
Halftime: Not terrific play from either side, but Russia has definitely been the better side in the first half. If this result holds, Russia will be through -- assuming South Korea doesn't beat Belgium.
45'+ -- Great chance just before half for Russia, but a good stop Mbohli to take us into half.
43' -- Another chance for Algeria on a corner, but the header goes right into Akinfeev's gut. If this result holds, Russia will be through.
36' -- Good chances for Algeria, but still nothing of consequence.
30' -- Algeria just kept out on a corner. Great save by Akinfeev on a header.
26' -- Good try from distance by Russia's Oleg Shatov -- seemed to have Algeria keeper Adi Mvbolhi mixed up -- but it sails wide.
19' -- Russia has had the better chances early, even after the goal that put them ahead. They certainly have not backed off.
14' -- Decent chance in close for Algeria, but Akinfeev makes a nice play in goal to kill the attack.
12' -- Algeria trying to answer but not able to get anything on goal. A draw is (likely) all they'll need.
6' -- WELL OKAY. Great ball in for Russia results in a wonderful goal headed in by Kokorin. So, yeah, pressure is on you, Algeria.
1' -- We're underway. Winner is through.
3:55 p.m. ET: Remember, it's entirely possible this game features the US team's next opponent. An Algeria win coupled with a Belgium loss gives Algeria the group.
3:45 p.m. ET: In short, Russia needs a win, Algeria needs a draw. The team that gets what it wants is probably through, barring a South Korea victory over Belgium coupled with an Algeria draw.
We'll get more into that when it comes down to it, but here's how each side will line up.
Russia: Igor Akinfeev; Dmitri Kombarov, Sergei Ignashevich, Aleksei Berezutskiy, Aleksei Kozlov; Viktor Fayzulin, Denis Glushakov, Oleg Shatov; Aleksandr Kerzhakov, Aleksandr Kokorin, Aleksandr Samedov.
Algeria: Rais M'Bohli; Djamel Mesbah, Essaïd Belkalem, Rafik Halliche, Aïssa Mandi; Carl Medjani, Nabil Bentaleb; Abdelmoumene Djabou, Yacine Brahimi, Sofiane Feghouli; Islam Slimani.
Russia vs. Algeria (Group H) | Kickoff: 6/26, 4 p.m. ET | Stadium: Baixada
Match Preview: If you thought all of the World Cup action would have dissolved following Group G's conclusion earlier Thursday, you'd be wrong. There's also high drama in Group H, as the three teams trailing Belgium all have a chance of advancing.
The leader of the bottom three is Algeria, who sits at three points after a victory over South Korea. And right behind them is a Russia team that was expected by many prior to the tournament to be able to move through.
With a win, Russia will be through. A draw does them no good.
These are both sides that played Belgium close, with Algeria holding a lead for most of the game before two late Belgium goals took them out. Russia held Belgium scoreless for much of the game but conceded a late goal.
Russia has had some trouble mounting an attack -- they've only scored once this tournament -- but they've done well on the defensive end. Despite a pretty horrid mistake against South Korea, Igor Akinfeev has been solid in goal.
Algeria had a goal-scoring explosion against South Korea, and they've looked like the strongest team offensively in the group. One has to assume a single goal would be enough to at least draw Russia, which would ensure Algeria a spot in the knockout round.