Africa, Sport

Slovenia strikes it lucky as Algeria defeats itself in Polokwane

Slovenia strikes it lucky as Algeria defeats itself in Polokwane

For most of the game, it was a mind-numbing affair, the equivalent of watching the paint dry during Durban summers. Then the team that looked stronger of two weaklings, Algeria, decided to push the self-destruct button.

At the strike of minute number four, the remaining Group C match turned into a trench- war that lasted almost as long as the First World War itself. Both teams had not many ideas and placed much greater emphasis on not losing the game. There was not much to report until the minute 73, when the Algerian top striker, Ghezzal, decided to apply for the Darwin Award by getting the stupidest red card seen in the longest time. Suffice it to say: do not hand the ball after getting your first yellow card just moments before. Dazzlingly stupid.

Photo: Officials chase Algerian fans off the pitch after they ran in to hug Algerian players during warm-ups before the 2010 World Cup Group C soccer match between Algeria and Slovenia at Peter Mokaba stadium in Polokwane June 13, 2010. REUTERS/Christian Charisius

But his otherwise excellent goalkeeper colleague, Chaouchi, decided to join the Darwin awards competition entrants by conceding a goal in by now the legendary Robert Green fashion; you know, the one where you compete for letting the softest goal in history. So soft, that is, that even journalism in the in-flight magazines looks decidedly hard. (Thank you, Jeremy Clarkson) Slovenian captain Robert Koren supplied the ball and claimed the honours, but didn’t know much about it. He now finally knows how winning the lottery feels.

A terrible, terrible, meaningless game, unless it wreaks havoc with England and the US plans. Although we doubt this: Slovenia is simply not on their plane.

Before the match

The Slovenian team is mostly made up of Bosnians, Serbs, Croats and the odd Slovenian.

Man of the match:


Team line-ups

Algeria: Fawzi Chaouchi, Antar Yahia, Madjid Bougherra, Rafik Halliche, Nadir Belhadj, Hassan Yebda, Karim Ziani, Mehdi Lacen, Foued Kadir, Karim Matmour, Rafik Djebbour

Slovenia: Samir Handanovic, Bojan Jokic, Marko Suler, Bostjan Cesar, Miso Brecko, Valter Birsa, Robert Koren, Alexander Radosavlevic, Andraz Kirm, Milivoje Novakovic, Zlatko Dedic

First half

  • 3rd minute: Belhadj’s powerful free kick stopped by the Slovenian goalkeeper, Handanovic. The game has started brightly and both teams look intent on fighting an honest fight.

After the first 20 mins, the game has settled into the rhythm of high-intensity, highly-strung individual duels, fought mostly around the centre of the field. After the Slovenian keeper was tested early, he and his Algerian colleagues have mostly been observers, with the odd throwing of the ball back into the game as their duty. Both teams are intent on not letting the other side gain any strategic or tactical advantage, but they inevitably have to pay the price of not really making an impact in the opposite penalty box. They appear to be in great physical shape and will be tough opponents for the US and England.

  • 22nd minute: Algerian goalkeeper Chaouchi is put under pressure for the first time after the free-kick/short corner cross, but deals with it with some ease. His is an impressive physique and Slovenians will have difficulties sending crosses into his space.
  • 30th minute: Both teams are simply not sending enough players into the attack, especially Slovenia, which looks intent on thinking defensively first. From time to time, the Algerians do commit up to seven players forward. Not much to who for it for, though.

Photo: Darwin Award application no 1: Algeria’s Abdelkader Ghezzal handles the ball to receive a red card during the 2010 World Cup Group C soccer match against Slovenia at Peter Mokaba stadium in Polokwane June 13, 2010. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

  • 35th minute: The first yellow card of the game for Slovenia’s Radosavlevic. Algeria looks the more accomplished a team and the resulting free-kick almost ends up in the Slovenians making a mistake. The Algerians are starting to dominate the game. 
  • 36th minute: Halliche’s header from the corner cross flies just past the gates. This one was very close. The Slovenians are probably hoping for the first half to end soon. The Algerians appear stronger and faster and the Slovenians struggle to string together more than two passes at a time.
  • 40th minute: Matmour’s shot flies past Handanovic’s goal relatively harmlessly, but the intent was there.
  • 43rd minute: A first Slovenian shot by Birsa, a bomb across the face of the goal gets brilliantly stopped by Chaouchi. He continues the impressive showing of the goalkeepers at the World Cup.
  • 45th minute Birsa is given the space to shoot again, but misses by a country mile.

What can best describe the Slovenia vs Algeria game’s first half? Well, it was completely the opposite of Argentina vs Nigeria. Completely.

Second half

  • 52nd minute: Ljubijankic replaces the qualifiers’ hero Dedic, and it appears that he might just bring some zest to the Slovenians so-called attacks.
  • 45th to 55th minute: The second half picked up where it left in the first. Not much action, the trench war continues. Boring.
  • 60th minute: A first proper chance for Slovenia, as Kirm gets acres of empty space on the left side of the penalty box. His was not much of a shot. He practically passed the ball to Chaouchi. Pathetic.
  • 63th minute: Another promising attack by the Slovenians thwarted by Algerian central defenders before it could even become a chance and reach their main scorer, Novakovic. 
  • 68th minute Radosavlevic is spending some quality time lying on the pitch after bumping his head into Matmour’s shoulder; Algerians use the break to get some water.
  • 70th minute: Ghezzal shoulders one of the better crosses for Algeria. 30% chance. Sad that we even have to report it in such an action-less match.
  • 72nd minute: Ghezzal is a candidate for getting the most stupid red card, ever, after unnecessarily handling the ball in Slovenian penalty box. A second yellow card means a red card, and he has now seriously endangered his country’s chances in this game. Stupid, stupid and frighteningly stupid. 
  • 77th minute: The Slovenian goalkeeper almost matches Ghezzal in the stupidity stakes as he slots the ball into the path of the galloping Algerian attacker, but manages to recover it in the very last second.

Photo: Darwin Award application no 2: Algeria’s goalkeeper Faouzi Chaouchi concedes a goal to Slovenia during a 2010 World Cup Group C soccer match at Peter Mokaba stadium in Polokwane June 13, 2010. REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado

  • 79th minute: Slovenia scores! Their captain Koren curls a weak ball into the Algerian goal and  Chaouchi emulates Robert Green from the previous night by not stopping the easiest of the shots. Pathetic, again.
  • 82nd minute: The Algerians are trying to recover from shock they caused themselves. Maybe we’ll have some proper action now.
  • 87th minute: The Slovenians are very good at running the clock out. Five minutes passed without any action.
  • 92nd minute: Bougherra’s limp lob that flies far and wide of the Slovenian goal appears to be the last chance for Algerians.
  • 93rd minute: Slovenia’s Komac gets a yellow card for a cynical professional foul. Should have been a red.
  • 95th minute: The end. Slovenia has its first win ever at the World Cup.  Incredible

Report By Branko Brkic

Main photo: Slovenia’s Robert Koren (L) celebrates with team mates after scoring against Algeria during a 2010 World Cup Group C soccer match at Peter Mokaba stadium in Polokwane June 13, 2010. REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado


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