Slovenia record first finals win to top Group C
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Robert Koren scored a late goal on Sunday to give Slovenia a 1-0 win over 10-man Algeria and first place in Group C of the World Cup.
The Slovenian captain scored with a long-range shot that Algeria goalkeeper Fawzi Chaouchi misjudged and allowed to bounce into the net off his arm in the 79th minute.
“Everyone saw what happened with the ball, and what happened yesterday with England’s goalkeeper,” Algeria coach Rabah Saadane said. “You have to adjust to the flight of the ball.”
Algeria substitute Abdelkader Ghezzal had been sent off seven minutes earlier, picking up a second yellow card for handling the ball inside the Slovenian penalty area.
It was the tiny Balkan nation’s first ever World Cup victory after losing all three group matches at the 2002 tournament.
Algeria twice came close in the first half when Nadir Belhadj’s 25-metre (yard) free kick forced Slovenia goalkeeper Samir Handanovic to stretch and push the ball over the crossbar, and defender Rafik Halliche headed just wide.
Both sides knew heading into the match that a loss would be costly, with difficult encounters against England and the United States left on the program. The Group C favourites drew 1-1 Saturday after a blunder by goalkeeper Robert Green cost England the victory.
Saadane said Chaouchi apologised to the team for fumbling the ball when Slovenia scored on Sunday.
“We must recover and prepare for an even more difficult match against England, which is the best of the group,” Saadane said. “It’s going to be very difficult now. We had a great opportunity today and we missed it.”
The Group C game at the newly built Peter Mokaba Stadium was the first ever World Cup match played on a surface partly consisting of artificial grass. Similar turf is being used at some major stadiums in Europe.
Slovenia face the United States next while Algeria travel to Cape Town to take on England.© AFP 2013