After posting their first World Cup win since 1982, Algeria are in the driver's seat to advance from group play for the first time in their history with a result against Russia. But the Europeans are still very much alive, as a win and a favorable result in the South Korea-Belgium game would also see them through for the first time under the Russian flag.
FENNEC FOXES ON BRINK OF HISTORY: Although Algeria entered the tournament as the highest-ranked African team, few were giving them much of a chance to advance from an admittedly open Group H. Their opening loss to Belgium was somewhat unfortunate, as they held a lead before the group favorites nicked it in the end, but the 4-2 romp over South Korea firmly put the world on notice that this Algerian team could make waves.
The question now is whether they can repeat the performance of their last game against another European side. Although Russia have struggled so far in the tournament, they are also still alive. Will Algeria make history and move on to the knockout stage for the first time?
PRESSURE IS ON CAPELLO, RUSSIA: The Russians are in an interesting position at this World Cup. In an open group, they were expected by many to advance coming into the tournament, but the real focus is on 2018, when they'll be hosting the tournament. Still, they are very much in the hunt, and Russians will be hoping that coach Fabio Capello can get a better result against Algeria than the last time he faced them in the World Cup, when he was coaching England in 2010. That game finished 0-0, a result Russia can't afford this time around.
EXPECT SLIMANI BACK IN STARTING LINEUP: Striker Islam Slimani had a goal and an assist in the win over South Korea after getting his first start in the tournament. The leading scorer for his country in World Cup qualifying, it appears he's played his way into the starting lineup and should be a major headache for Russia.
CAN KOKORIN BAG A GOAL? Aleksandr Kokorin has looked like Russia's most dangerous attacking weapon so far, but he's yet to score in this tournament. Will he be able to give his country the ultimate boost?
THE STAR YOU KNOW:
- Sofiane Feghouli, midfielder/forward, Algeria -- He's got a goal and an assist so far in this World Cup, but Feghouli is set for a breakout performance in Brazil. The Valencia star is particularly lethal on the countertattack, as this goal from last season demonstrates:
THE PLAYER WHO WILL SURPRISE YOU:
- Igor Akinfeev, goalkeeper, Russia -- Yes, he had a blunder in Russia's opening game, and yes, Russia need scoring in this game. But if they grab a win, Akinfeev -- who is still a very good goalkeeper -- will be central to keeping Algeria off the board.