Algerians’ long wait is nearly over.
Twenty-two years on, the ‘Shame of Gijon’ can finally be put to bed as Algeria find themselves on the cusp of their first ever appearance in the knockout stages.
At the 1982 finals Algeria were similarly poised before West Germany recorded a 1-0 win over Austria, a game in which both sides settled for a result that put them through at the expense of the North Africans. It became known as the ‘non-aggression pact of Gijón’ and had Algerians crying foul.
At least this time Algeria’s fate is in their own hands and a draw against the Russians should be enough to see them progress.
Manager Vahid Halilhodzic made five changes ahead of their second outing against South Korea, with dramatic results. Having only mustered three shots in their opening defeat to Belgium, they surpassed that number inside the opening 10 minutes en route to a convincing 4-2 victory against the Koreans.
Fabio Capello’s Russian side are proving as uninspiring as his England charges were at the 2010 World Cup. The Russians were poor in their opening game and, while there were signs of improvement against Belgium, an aging team has struggled to impose their game for 90 minutes.
The former England manager could be forgiven if he was preoccupied with building ahead of Russia’s hosting of the 2018 finals, but the side remains over-reliant on a core group of veterans who are unlikely to feature in four years’ time.
He did bring in 22-year-old forward Maksim Kanunnikov for the Belgium game but has only unleashed arguably their most creative player – and one of the stars of Euro 2012 – Alan Dzagoev from the bench up to now, while poster boy Alexander Kokorin has yet to shine.
Capello struggled to get the better of these opponents four years ago when England played out a dire 0-0 draw in Cape Town. A similar result would be enough for the Algerians here.
The Algerian defence, however, has looked suspect and with Russia needing a win to keep alive their own outside chances of qualifying, there should be goals.
With Algeria only requiring a point, the draw is available at 23/10, while the 9/2 about a 1-1 draw represents value.
The match kicks off at 9pm UK time on Wednesday, June 25th in Arena Baixada, Curitiba.