PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil (AP) - Algeria hasn’t won a World Cup match since 1982, and the team’s coach is out to lower expectations before its next one in Brazil.
“The South Korean team is basically better than the Algerian team, so it won’t be easy,” said Vahid Halilhodzic on the eve of a Group H match where Algeria needs at least a point to stay in contention.
Algeria lost its first match 2-1 to Belgium after leading through a first-half penalty.
Halilhodzic spent much of Saturday’s news conference fending off criticism that his side played too defensively and rumors that the players didn’t support his strategy.
His response was that the Algerian media were “stupid” and “printed lies.” He dismissed a question over whether the head of the Algerian football association had asked him to make changes to the starting lineup on Sunday.
“The Algerian people trust this team. If you read the Algerian newspapers, I heard I have been criticized, I’m very proud of what I have done for the Algerian people,” he said.
“I won’t change my tactics because we have been defeated by one of the major teams in the World Cup.”
Algeria is under intense pressure to match or better its achievement in 1982, when it beat West Germany in a group game.
“Everyone has been waiting for years for Algeria to win,” he said. “A victory would be a nice present for the Algerian people.”
The coach, who has been in charge since 2011, said he would make changes to the team but declined to give any details.
South Korea goes into the game as the favorite and will not lack motivation. After a draw with Russia in its first game, a win would put the team in a good position to advance.
“In the last matches they have played as they have played for some years: they are disciplined, structured and well organized,” he said. “Russia had difficulty to score. Korea could have won, in fact. They are fast, explosive and aggressive.”
Algeria has a very young and inexperienced team. But promising talents such as central midfielder Sofiane Feghouli, who has a good first touch and excellent passing skills, along with striker Islam Slimani, will be key to their team’s hopes of victory on Sunday.