Algeria have impressed me at Brazil 2014 thus far, not so the Russians. There wasn’t a great deal of expectation surrounding Vahid Halihodzi’s side in light of a fairly disastrous African Cup of Nations last year, combined with their uninspiring previous appearances at World Cup finals. Even qualification was a bit of a struggle this time as they only successfully negotiated Burkina Faso on the away goals rule following a nervy 1-0 win in the second leg of their play-off. But there’s been a distinct key-change to the manner in which they play as while defensive solidarity clearly remains high on the agenda, in Sofiane Feghouli and Islam Slimani, Algeria now have some real quality going forward. Indeed, I’m sure you would have got long odds against the North African side being ahead at half-time in both of their opening Group H games before a ball was kicked.
Belgium showed the requisite nous and quality to turn things around after Algeria sat back and tried to soak up the pressure in Belo Horizonte but, given how they put South Korea to the sword with three well-worked goals before the break, Halihodzi could be forgiven for having a few regrets they didn’t go for the Belgium jugular while they had the chance. Barring an emphatic, and let’s be honest unlikely, Korean victory over Belgium in the other game, Algeria only need to draw with Russia to make the last-16 of the World Cup for the first time in their history – and I’m keen on them doing enough.
Russia are surprisingly warm favourites around +115 to claim all three points and that is the only result that could see them progress to the first knockout phase. But Fabio Capello’s team have badly missed their injured captain Roman Shirokov in the middle of the park and strike me as a team who are there for the taking in the gruelling South American conditions. The experienced Aleksandr Kerzhakov has been a brilliant servant for his country over the years and came off the bench to score against Korea in the opening game. He looks past his best in truth but may be asked to lead the line from the start as his supposed replacement, the 23-year-old Dynamo Moscow striker Aleksandr Kokorin, has thus far shown his inexperience in missing a couple of gilt-edged opportunities. If a stuttering Russia are going to find the net at all, Kerzhakov looks the man to be with, whether he starts or not.
However, Algeria will be buzzing after thrashing South Korea and I strongly fancy them to carry that momentum into this match. I wouldn’t put anyone off the +275 available against an Algeria win but I’d prefer to take +185 with the draw-no-bet insurance as it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the players revert to type and attempt shut up shop should they be heading into the final 20 minutes all square on the verge of a history-making result.
For those who are betting with firms which don’t offer the draw no bet market, I would suggest either taking Algeria/Draw on the double chance market, or simply betting Algeria to win at +275.
2 Units – Algeria (Draw no bet) +185
+0.9 Units (8-9)