It is all to play for on Thursday when Group H rivals Algeria and Russia meet in Curitiba for a place in the last 16 of the World Cup.
With Belgium already through thanks to maximum points from their first two games, the Algerians and the Russians will battle it out to join them in the second round.
A draw or a win for Vahid Halilhodzic's side on Thursday is likely to see them get beyond the group stage for the first time in their history.
Meanwhile, with just one point to show so far, Fabio Capello's Russia have to claim three points if they want to leapfrog their opponents and make it through.
Similar to Algeria, the Russians have never reached the second round of a World Cup.
Algeria have no fresh injury worries ahead of the match, while Aleksandr Kozlov is expected to undergo a late fitness test for Russia after suffering a knock during his team's defeat to Belgium.
Russia vs. Algeria (Group H)
2 way line – Russia -0.5 (+110) Algeria +0.5 (-130)
3 way line – Russia (+110) Algeria (+250) Draw (+245)
Total – Over 2.5 (+115) Under 2.5 (-135)
Side: Russia have been compact and organized across the entire pitch, but they’ve also been unadventurous and it’s cost them points in each of their first two matches. Now, they sit on one point and are in desperate need of a win against a suddenly red hot Algeria. The Russians must change their tune if they want to defeat Algeria and continue on in the competition. They have the talent to use the wings in order to press men forward and put pressure on opposing defenses, and they should unleash this in their final group stage match. Offensively, Alexander Kokorin has the ability to score goals, but he’s only been presented one great chance and his header went sailing wide.
The Algerians who have always been a defensive minded side broke out of their shell in the previous match and could be a team with too much confidence for their own good. If Russia can take advantage of the new found Algerian look in which they are no longer afraid to send multiple men forward, the Russians can easily steal the three points and book their trip to the Round of 16.
Before the tournament ever began Algeria claimed they were not the 2010 Desert Foxes that refused to come out of their own third. In the opening match, they scored first on a penalty and then sat back like it was 2010 all over again. Then, the offensive mindset sprung to life as Algeria lambasted South Korea and didn’t back down for the entire 90 minutes of the match. Amazingly, the new approach held the Koreans without a single shot in the whole first half.
They went straight back to it in the second half and wound up scoring a fourth goal. Expect to see a side brimming with confidence come right at Russia from the opening kick. However, the Russian defense is a much different beast than what Algeria took on in South Korea. Tactically, the Russians are rarely even inches out of position, so it takes excellent combination play or multiple one-on-one wins to break them down. The Russians should afford Algeria the space to enter the final third, it’ll just be a question of how protective of the ball the Algerians are when they get in close. Usually games involving Algeria are billed as boring, not so much anymore. Pick: Russia -0.5 goals (+110)
Total: The new look Desert Foxes are going to be eager to prove their effort against South Korea was not a one hit wonder. Sofiane Feghouli’s presence on the ball has been excellent thus far so expect the Russians to keep their eyes on him and attempt to make someone else beat them. The Algerian style might backfire against the team-oriented and almost formulaic Russians. Russia has yet to really show up to the World Cup but Fabio Capella’s side know it’s now or never.
Algeria will control the ball early and will look to pressure the Russian defenders, but as long as they stay compact, Russia should have the ability to counter and could find acres of space along the wings when Algeria turns the ball over. The more aggressive side only needs the draw and the more calculated team must have a win, so the scenarios add up to a low scoring affair. Pick: Under 2.5 goals (-135)
Possible starting lineups
Algeria: Mbolhi; Bougherra, Mesbah, Halliche, Mandi Bentaleb; Feghouli, Medjani, Brahimi; Slimani, Djabou
Russia: Akinfeev; Kombarov, Berezutskiy, Ignashevich; Glushakov, Kokorin, Shatov, Samedov, Fayzulin; Kozlov, Kanunnikov
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