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Bouazza the Hero as Algeria Halt ‘Elephants’ Charge

Vahid Halilhodži?, take note: if you can’t defend, then goals are worthless. In an enthralling encounter, Algeria toppled pre-tournament favourites Ivory Coast with a goal from Blackpool star Hameur Bouazza just two minutes into extra time. Karim Matmour had earlier cancelled out Saloman Kalou’s opener, before Majid Bougherra nodded in after Kader Keita’s spectacular strike.

In fairness to Algeria, they fully deserved the win. After soaking up the ‘Elephants’ pressure, they started to dominate and should have scored more in extra time. However, the only outcome that looked possible from the start was an Ivoirian victory. The fans inside the stadium barely had time to settle when Kalou gave the Ivory Coast an early lead, staying onside and latching onto a deflected pass before slotting past Chaouchi. ‘Les Fennecs’, struggled to hold onto possession, and the Ivoirians should have been handed the opportunity to increase their lead soon after. Gervinho threaded a beautiful pass to Chelsea’s Didier Drogba, who was scythed down by Rafik Halliche. But the referee waved play on; Halilhodži? was incensed.

Blackpool's Bouazza scored the decisive goal with only his second touch
Blackpool’s Bouazza scored the decisive goal with only his second touch

After their reprieve, the North Africans started to take a stranglehold of the game, and equalised just before half-time. A speculative diagonal cross wasn’t dealt with by Guy Demel, and Matmour took advantage to leave Boubacar Barry helpless.

With the scores level, both sides were cautious to avoid gifting their opponents what could have been a winner. But sloppy play from the Ivoirians’ handed Algeria several opportunities, with Matmour the guiltiest having missed a simple one-on-one chance. At the other end, Kalou’s bending strike flew just past the right post, whilst Gervinho fired high and wide after being put through by Didier Zokora’s flighted pass.

Kader Keita thought he had won the tie with his brilliant effort
Kader Keita thought he had won the tie with his brilliant effort

And with the game on a knife-edge, it was the Ivoirians’ who thought they had moved into the semi-finals in the 89th minute. After a slick move, Kader Keita spectacularly blasted the ball into the top corner from thirty yards, leading a full-scale celebration – the ‘Elephants’ thought they had won the tie.

But what they forgot was that there were still three minutes to play. Poor closing down allowed Nadir Belhadj to float in a last-ditch cross, and Majid Bougherra glanced home with not a single defender in sight. And worse was to come for the much-hyped Ivoirians. At the start of extra time, a carbon-copy cross was thumped in by Bouazza, with only his second touch. Barry and his defence seemed clueless. Kader Ghezzal missed two chances to seal victory, before the Ivory Coast nearly made them pay. Emerse Fae saw his effort blocked, before Kolo Toure’s finish was ruled out for offside – a decision that TV replays proved to be incorrect.

Kolo Toure's effort was wrongly ruled out for offside in the last minute
Kolo Toure’s effort was wrongly ruled out for offside in the last minute

Halilhodzic told BBC Sport, ‘Is the problem physical or psychological? It cannot be physical because when you are one goal up with only one minute left, you just sit back and clinch victory. Algeria deserve their victory.’

Scenes of jubilation followed from the Algerian underdogs and their fans. For Halilhodži? and his side, it is just another failure.

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