Soccer-Algeria coach hopes to quickstep into second round


By Alan Baldwin

CURITIBA, Brazil, June 25 (Reuters) - Algeria coach Vahid Halilhodzic is ready for a song and dance if his side make history and reach the second round of the World Cup for the first time on Thursday.

The Bosnian-born coach, who has a combative relationship with the Algerian media, reckoned critics would have to recognise he had talent in that department at least if his side see off Fabio Capello's Russia in their last Group H game.

"Don't let's get carried away," he cautioned when asked how he would celebrate success in what he had called the biggest match in Algeria's history as well as his own career in management.

"But it would be an unforgettable moment if we win tomorrow. Afterwards I can sing, I can dance and do everything. I think even you Algerian journalists will appreciate that."

Algeria are second in the group on three points, with Belgium already qualified on six. Russia and South Korea both have one.

Russia must win to progress, while Algeria could need only a draw, but Halilhodzic said his players would aim to take all three points against a side who have so far scored just one goal.

"I don't think we are capable of seeking a draw, but of course a draw would be welcome if it happens," he said. "Sometimes to get a draw you have to score first."

Winning, he said, would be truly historic but Russia, with Italian Capello's tactical reputation, posed a big challenge.

"At the start of this World Cup my team had nothing to lose but tomorrow we have something to lose. It's a moment to make history and to make history you have to do everything right," declared Halilhodzic.

"When I see great champions eliminated already and the Algerian team on the brink of the second round, it is a hyper-important match."

Algeria came close to qualifying in Spain in 1982 but an infamous 'non-aggression pact' match between Austria and West Germany - a draw that saw both go through in the "Disgrace of Gijon' - denied them the opportunity.

Halilhodzic said his young side, who beat the Koreans 4-2, could finally mend the years of hurt resulting from such 'cheating'.

Algeria are likely to field the same team that beat the Koreans, although the coach said he had some concerns about the physical recovery of one or two of his players, without naming anyone.

The poor condition of the Curitiba pitch was also a concern and Halilhodzic said he had asked for it to be watered thoroughly.

Asked how satisfying progress to the second round would be in the light of media criticism, the coach bristled again.

"I don't play for the press or for critics," he said. "I don't play for you. If you continue to criticise I don't care. I'll just do my job." (Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Patrick Johnston)

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