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FIFA World Cup: Slovenia edge past Algeria in drab affair

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slovenian_fans.jpgSlovenia notched up their first win in an international tournament by edging past Algeria with a solitary Robert Koren goal, thanks to a goalkeeping howler from Faouzi Chaouchi, at the Peter Mokaba Stadium in a FIFA World Cup Group C encounter here today. The win though, was scarcely deserved, as both teams showed little promise creating very few openings right through the game, and it was only after a shocking handball which reduced Algeria to ten men, that Slovenia managed to get in the winner.

Nonetheless, Slovenia go top of Group C with the win, and if they manage to put up an improved showing against USA and England, they could still muster a strong challenge for making it out of the group to the knockouts.

Slovenia went in with their tried and tested 4-4-2 formation with the midfield duo of Koren and Radosavljevic in charge of feeding the strikers, while the Algerians adopted a more defensive 4-5-1, crowding out the midfield. Rafik Djebbour was the lone man upfront with Karim Ziani moving back into left midfield, in what was a very defensive approach.

The game began with a free kick each for either team and though Slovenia could not do much with theirs, Nadir Belhadj came real close to getting an early goal. Samir Handanovic was made to jump and tip over the long range effort for a corner, as Algeria got off to a bright start. Algeria's good start quickly died out though, as the game soon turned out into a drab affair (which it was touted to be) with both teams playing out long passes with little sight of the goal.

Though Slovenia looked more comfortable and had more of the possession early on, it was the Algerians who ironically created the better of the chances. Karim Matmour should have done better from a Karim Ziani cross from the left in the 21st minute, with a promising ball sailing out harmlessly for a goal kick.


Matmour was the recipient of another fine pass, this time from the talented Belhadj, before once again failing to hit the target after skipping away from a defender. A couple of minutes later, Valter Birsa created Slovenia's best chance of the game thus far, sending a rasping, goal-bound shot from the edge of the box only for Faouzi Chaouchi to tip it over the bar. Chaouchi, looking circumspect initially, had grown in confidence as the first half progressed.

Not much came out of the resulting Slovenia corner and though Birsa sent another long-range shot in the final few minutes of the half, a very dull first half expectedly came to an end at 0-0.

The second half was not very different in nature the way it began, with nothing coming out of a couple of hopeful long balls to Zlatko Dedic. The ineffective Dedic was soon replaced by Zlatan Ljubijankic as Slovenia tried to make some inroads into the final third. It was Algeria though, who got the first chance after the re-start with Belhadj whipping in a freekick, only for Handanovic in goal to commit himself early to hold the ball well.

Minutes later, Algeria also substituted their striker, getting Abdelkadder Ghezzal in place of Rafik Djebbour. Ironically though, Ghezzal required only a minute to get into the referee's notebook with his indiscipline earning him Algeria's first and the game's second yellow card. The resulting passage of play saw Slovenia creating three decent chances in front of goal, only for poor finishing every time to spoil the good work.

Algeria still looked the better side going into the final quarter of the game but it was thanks to a suicidal handball from Ghezzal that the game suddenly turned Slovenia's way, with the Algerians reduced to 10 men. Ghezzal, struggling to control a Kadir cross in front of goal, stupidly used his hand leaving the referee no choice but to show him his second yellow and thus end a disastrous 15-minute stay on the pitch.

What followed the red-card was pure madness, with goalkeeping howlers producing chances at both ends. It was Handanovic's turn first, who after receiving a back pass, stroked it right into the path of Karim Ziani. Handanovic though, recovered well to smother the effort and prevent any damage. Minutes later, Robert Koren tried a speculative shot at the other end from 25 yards out, which Chaouchi failed to gather to send Slovenia up 1-0!

Chaouchi's effort (or the lack of it) was an instant reminder of Robert Green's howler against the USA yesterday, and brought on even more misery on Algeria, already a man down. Rabah Saadane was quick to tweak his side sending in Rafik Saifi and Adlene Guedioura in search of an equalizer, but little came out of the last 10 minutes with Slovenia shutting shop.

The win puts Slovenia in pole position in the group, and their game against the United States at Ellis Park on Friday the 18th could well decide second place in the group. Despite the win though, Slovenia have shown little promise in terms of attacking talent and the USA would go into the game confident of coming out triumphant.

Algeria would feel hard done by the defeat, after being the more threatening of the two sides for most of the game, and their World Cup could well be over with two tough games against England and the USA to follow. They have nothing to lose though, and England would need to be cautious of that fact when the two sides also meet on the 18th.


Slovenia: Handanovic (GK), Jokic, Suler, Cesar, Brecko, Birsa (Pecnik 84'), Koren, Radosavljevic (Komac 87'), Kirm, Dedic (Ljubijankic 53'), Novakovic.

Algeria: Chaouchi (GK), Belhadj, Bougherra, Yahia, Halliche, Ziani, Yebda, Lacen, Matmour (Saifi 80'), Kadir (Guedioura 82'), Djebbour (Ghezzal 58').

Slovenia 1-0 Algeria
Koren (Slovenia) 78'

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File Photograph Copyright: Robert Jerin

Fan Photo by 2010 FIFA World Cup Organising Committee South Africa

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