Written by Staff Writer
27 Jun, 2014 | 8:57 am
Algeria has qualified for the World Cup knockout stages for the first time after Islam Slimani’s headed equalizer gave his team a 1-1 draw against Russia on Thursday.
Algeria placed second in Group H behind Belgium, meaning it will meet Germany in the second round.
Russia dominated much of the match after taking the lead in the 6th minute when Alexander Kokorin powerfully headed in a left-foot cross from Dmitry Kombarov.
Slimani’s 60th-minute equalizer came after Russia goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev failed to catch a swinging left-foot free kick from Yacine Brahimi. That was the second costly error that Akinfeev has made in the tournament for Russia.
Russia needed a win to advance to the next stage.
Portugal Wins and Goes Home
That 11 players from Ghana stepped out onto the field at the appointed time Thursday seemed victory enough. Earlier in the day, after a week of infighting and threats of boycotts, the Ghana Football Association suspended two of its star players heading into its critical match against Portugal.
The decision of the governing body of Ghanaian soccer was a victory for coach James Kwesi Appiah, who had battled star player Kevin-Prince Boateng in training and then requested his dismissal. But on the field Appiah and Ghana lost, 2-1, to Portugal on Thursday, and its 2014 World Cup ended in shambles, despite a noble effort at the end.
That Portugal’s first goal was scored off the knee of Ghana defender John Boye only underscored Ghana’s self-destruction. Still, it played with spirit and attacking flair in its final game to help make for a compelling 90 minutes of simultaneous soccer in two Brazilian cities.
Portugal did not fare much better than Ghana, because it, too, was knocked out. Even with the United States losing to Germany, 1-0, in Recife, the U.S. advanced, on goal differential.
When it ended here, the players from both teams lowered their heads and walked about the field shaking hands, knowing that they would all be going home unhappy.
Portugal scored first, in the 31st minute, but Ghana evened the score, creating nervous tension for U.S. fans in Recife. But in the 80th minute, some clumsy defending by the Ghanaians left the ball at Cristiano Ronaldo’s feet about 12 yards in front of the goal, and he did not miss the opportunity, slotting it into the low-right corner.
Ghana continued to apply pressure, but could not find an equalizer, or the go-ahead goal it needed to advance, and its push forward also created many chances for Portugal, which could have had three or four goals against a team with a short-handed bench.
Boateng, whose brother Jerome Boateng played for Germany, was sent home for what the association described as a verbal attack on Appiah. The other suspended player, Sulley Muntari, had collected two yellow cards and would not have played Thursday.
But those who did play put on an admirable performance, pushing forward and playing with the resolve of a team looking to put its troubles behind it and advance.
Trailing, 1-0, in the 57th minute, Kwadwo Asamoah of Ghana sent in a perfect cross for Asamoah Gyan, who headed it home, giving Ghana new life. Coming into the game, Portugal knew that its best chance to advance would be through an unlikely blowout victory coupled with a heavy loss by the United States.
Ghana, on the other hand, had a more realistic chance, but its chances were made more difficult when Boateng was disciplined. The Ghana association said in separate statements that it had suspended, indefinitely, Boateng for a vulgar verbal attack on Appiah in a recent training session and Muntari for a physical attack against two members of the association.
The latter incident, the statement said, came at a volatile meeting between players and association members over payments the players insisted be made immediately and in cash.
Regarding Muntari, the association said, “The decision was taken in the wake of his unprovoked physical attack on an executive committee member and a management member of the Black Stars, Mr. Moses Armah, on Tuesday.”
The meeting was called to resolve the issue of payments to the Ghana players, who did not trust the association to pay them after the tournament. As part of an agreement negotiated with the intervention of Ghana’s president, a plane carrying more than $3 million in cash was scheduled to arrive in Brasilia on Wednesday afternoon, or the players might have refused to play.
In the end, they all ended up going home anyway.
Germany Beat USA 1-0 , Both Advance
The result of the match did not matter as both Germany and USA qualified for the next round from Group G. For the record, Germany won 1-0!
Thomas Muller scored his ninth goal of World Cup finals and his fourth this year which was the difference between the two teams.
Belgium Defeat South Korea, Will Face USA in Knockouts
Defender Jan Vertonghen scored from a rebound in the 78th minute to give 10-man Belgium a 1-0 victory over South Korea on Thursday to clinch top spot in Group H at the World Cup.
It was Belgium’s third straight victory of the group stage and set up a meeting with the Unites States in the round of 16,
South Korea was eliminated with the loss — joining the other three Asian nations at the tournament.
Vertonghen was a stand-in captain for injured star Vincent Kompany. He knocked in the winner after South Korean goalkeeper Kim Seung-gyu had saved a shot from Divock Origi.
Belgium was reduced to 10 men just before the break when Steven Defour was sent off for a two-footed challenge, but South Korea couldn’t capitalize.
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