Assessment: Algeria fight to finish
One sentence, World Cup recap
This talented Algerian squad have written their names in domestic footballing folklore by progressing to the knockout stages for the first time in their history.
Several names could be penciled in as Algeria's star man. Goalkeeper Rais M'Bolhi pulled off decisive stops in each of Algeria's four matches. Sofiane Feghouli proved that he is this team's undisputed talisman. He worked tirelessly both offensively and defensively and he chipped in with a goal and two assists. Islam Slimani was an inspiration as he equaled Salah Assad's record of two goals at a World Cup finals.
But if there's one man who unreservedly deserves the title of Algeria's star man, it is coach Vahid Halilhodzic. The Bosnian caretaker used 19 of his 20 outfield players, experimenting with different tactical schemes and game plans tailored to the opponent he faced. Halilhodzic refused to prolong his African journey, but his achievements with this side have earned him accolades from the footballing world.
The first 45 minutes of Algeria vs. South Korea was one of the best first-half performances by any team in the tournament. Against the East Asians, Algeria displayed what they were capable of when clicking. Clever combination play, and goals galore are what Algerian supporters can look forward to if this side's attacking potential is cultivated.
All team assessments
Group Stage: Australia | Bosnia-Herzegovina | Cameroon | Croatia | Ecuador | England | Ghana | Honduras | Italy | Iran
Ivory Coast | Japan | Portugal | Russia | South Korea | Spain
Round of 16: Algeria | Chile | Greece | Mexico
Nigeria | Switzerland | Uruguay | United States
Quarterfinals: Colombia | France | Belgium | Costa Rica
Semifinals: Brazil | Netherlands
The biggest highlight has to have been the emotive response this team has drawn from the world of football. Supporters will have wanted their team to give it their all and that is exactly what Les Fennecs have done. We have seen players play with bandaged craniums, and others collapse with exhaustion and cramp.
This team can exit the World Cup with their heads held high knowing they did not only reach their objectives, but they also gained fans around the world.
Losing to Belgium a fortnight ago was heartbreaking. Algeria had implemented a clear game plan, but couldn't finish the job against the Red Devils. To add insult to injury, domestic media in Algeria harshly criticized the coach and the team for their defensive performance. The loss was a potential banana skin, but the team did well to respond to their detractors, beating South Korea 4-2 in the subsequent fixture.
There were a lot more peaks than valleys for Algeria, so the only other negative was the eventual elimination. Though Halilhodzic's men fought valiantly, Germany exploited problems in the Algerian defence that could have been addressed before the tournament started.
The players can take plenty from this tournament. Prior to the World Cup, Algeria had failed to perform at any major international tournament. The experience of winning on the biggest stage is invaluable for this young group of players who will now have the confidence to progress even further.
With the average age of Algeria's starting XI at 24 years old, there is still room for improvement. The only way is up for Les Fennecs, who have already attained vertiginous heights.