CURITIBA – Gp H: Algeria 1, Russia 1
—- Algeria finally exorcised the spectre of 1982 as they held Russia for a 1-1 draw and reached the second round of the ever-dramatic 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil.
Fabio Capello and his Russians prepared to head home complaining that keeper Igor Akinfeyev had been distracted on the decisive goal by a laser shone from the crowd.
Les Fennecs (Desert Foxes) have never previously escaped the group stages. Most notoriously they were denied progress back in Spain 32 years ago by a connived result between West Germany and Austria.
This time the Algerians achieved their own slice of football history entirely on their own merits.
Beaten 2-1 unluckily by Belgium in their opener, the Algerians defeated South Korea 4-2 in a thriller then hit back from a goal down to force a 1-1 draw with Russia in Curitiba to earn a knockout clash with Germany – of all people – in Porto Alegre.
Russia face a major rebuilding job in the next four years to present a worthy force for their World Cup hosting in 2018. Fabio Capello, having failed to steer Russia through the group stage at Euro 2012, witnessed another progressive failure despite an early thunderous header from Aleksandr Korkorin.
Another header, from Islam Slimani on the hour to a left-wing free kick, secured the all-important group runners-up slot for Algeria.
Later television replays showed a green laser pointed at Akinfeev’s face seconds before the goal.
Capello, whose side needed to win to reach the last 16, said: “The goalkeeper was unable to do his job. The laser was in his face. It is not an excuse. You can see in the footage.”
FIFA secretary-general Jerome Valcke said later that attempts to identify the culprit had been unsuccessful. Camera images had not been sharp enough.
Capello, who confronted the officials at the end of the match, has now only won one of his seven games at two World Cups.
The Italian, who took England into the second phase in South Africa in 2010, failed to lead Russia out of the group stage either here in Brazil or at Euro 2012.
Russia hosts the next World Cup and the Italian, who is contracted through to 2018, said he had no plans to resign.
Asked whether he would stay in charge, Capello replied: “If they still want me, yes.”