World Cup post-game: Slovenia 1, Algeria 0
Robert Koren scored in the 79th minute to guide Slovenia to a 1-0 win over Algeria Sunday in Polokwane, South Africa, at the World Cup.
The main story line
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Goalkeeping was the story of the first half with Algeria's Fawzi Chouachi and Slovenia's Samir Handanovic coming up with some big saves as the teams headed into the halftime break tied 0-0.
But Chouachi looked suspect on Koren's winning goal when he should have made the easy save.
As a result, Slovenia, who earned their first-ever World Cup victory (their previous tournament appearance came in 2002), took the full three points in what was a pretty even game and are the surprise leaders in Group C. Algeria's hopes of moving on to the next round look bleak.
The winning goal
With time running out, Koren took a short pass and dribbled for a few steps before curling a shot from outside the box around two defenders and into the lower-right corner of the net. Chouachi had it covered and should have made a comfortable save, but he somehow let the ball slip through his hands in a play reminiscent of Robert Green's goalkeeping gaffe for England on Saturday.
Turning point of the game
Second-half substitute Abdelkader Ghezzal received his second yellow card of the game in 73rd minute, forcing Algeria to play a man short for the remainder of the match. Six minutes later, Koren scored for Slovenia.
What this result means
With the win, Slovenia grabs a hold of first place in Group C with three points, ahead of group favourites England and the United States (one point apiece) and winless Algeria. When the English and the U.S. played to a 1-1 draw on Saturday, it opened the door for one of these two teams to take the early lead in Group C. Slovenia took full advantage and have now made things very interesting in the group.
Not only did they improve their chances of moving on to the second round, but they also put pressure on both England and the U.S. to win their next matches in order to advance. Algeria has to take at least four points from its final two games if it has any chance of avoiding elimination.
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Man of the match
Algeria's Nadir Belhadj was the most dangerous player on the field for the opening 45 minutes, making probing runs forward from his position in defence and carving out a few scoring chances for himself. He had less influence in the second half, but still managed to cause the Slovenian defence plenty of problems.
Save of the match
The first half was a fantastic goalkeepers' dual with Slovenia's Handanovic and Chouachi of Algeria coming up with some big saves. None were better than Handanovic's effort in the third minute when he tipped a dipping free kick off the foot of Algerian defender Nadir Belhadj over the crossbar.
The Slovenian perspective
"It was a mental victory. We wanted to win so much, so it's great for our confidence to get that win." — coach Matjaz Kek
The Algerian perspective
"Everyone saw what happened with the ball, and what happened yesterday with England's goalkeeper. You have to adjust to the flight of the ball." — coach Rabah Saadane
Slovenia takes on the U.S. in Johannesburg on June 18 (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 9:30 a.m. ET), while Algeria meets England on the same day in Cape Town (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 2:00 p.m. ET).