(AFP) – Algeria coach Vahid Halilhodzic hopes his side can ease the pain of a controversial exit from the World Cup 32 years ago by qualifying for the second round for the first time in their history when they face Russia on Thursday.
The Desert Foxes will seal their place in the last 16 with a win, but should just need a draw barring a heavy victory for South Korea over Belgium.
Algeria missed out on the second round in 1982 on goal difference after West Germany and Austria played out a 1-0 win for the Germans in the last group game to ensure both sides progressed.
“We have spoken a lot about the 1982 generation and that was a super team, but unfortunately rigging kept us from going further then,” said Halilhodzic.
“So that was the first Algerian team to succeed so impressively and we will see their heirs tomorrow.
“I think it is probably the most important match of my career, but it is also the most important match for Algeria.
“It is a qualification match for the second round and when I see great champions being eliminated already and the Algerian team now looking to get to the second round it is a historical match.”
For Fabio Capello’s Russia, the match represents a final chance to rectify two disappointing results as they were held 1-1 by South Korea before being beaten 1-0 by Divock Origi’s winner for Belgium two minutes from time on Sunday.
A lot more had been expected of Capello’s men after an impressive record in qualifying, which saw them top their group ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal.
However, Halilhodzic believes they have deserved more from their opening two games, particularly against Belgium.
“Russia is certainly not a small country in football and I have watched all their matches since the qualification round. They topped their group and have one of the best coaches in the world.
“They deserved more in the match against Belgium. They counter-attacked very well and we suffered with that against Belgium too.”
Halilhodzic is also worried about the state of the pitch at the Arena da Baixada as it hosts its fourth match in 10 days.
For the second time this week neither side was able to train on the pitch the day before the game and Halilhodzic is concerned it could affect his more technically gifted players.
“I went to see the pitch and it is not in great condition, so I have asked them to water it.
“We have technical advantages and I hope my players will be able to cope with that kind of pitch and show their talent.”