BLIDA, Algeria // Algeria claimed Africa’s final place at the World Cup on away goals after edging Burkina Faso 1-0 in the second leg of their play-off on Tuesday and narrowly progressing with a 3-3 aggregate draw.
But the Algerians only qualified for Brazil 2014 after a nerve-tingling finish at home to Burkina Faso, which hit the post in injury time to agonisingly miss the goal that would have taken the country to its first finals instead.
Algeria qualified on away goals following a 3-2 loss in Burkina Faso last month.
“I am very happy for Algeria and I am very happy for the players,” Algeria coach Vahid Hallihodzic said. “The victory was difficult. The players faced a brave and organised adversary that gave us many problems. ... But what is important is the victory and Algeria’s qualification.”
Algeria also prevented a clean sweep by West African teams in continental qualifying. Nigeria, Ivory Coast and Cameroon qualified this weekend and Ghana progressed by beating Egypt 7-3 on aggregate earlier Tuesday. Algeria’s qualification meant the same five countries that represented Africa at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa (besides 2010 hosts South Africa) will go to Brazil next year.
Madjid Bougherra scrambled in the decisive goal four minutes after halftime in Blida to send Algeria to their fourth World Cup when a Burkinabe defender’s attempted clearance rebounded off his head and into the net.
But Burkina Faso were within inches of stealing Africa’s last World Cup spot when another rebound cannoned off the Algerian woodwork in the first minute of injury time after a goalmouth melee. Inches inside the post and Burkina Faso would have followed up their surprise appearance in the African Cup final at the start of the year with a first ever trip to football’s showcase.
In Algiers, celebrations spilled into the streets as fireworks were let off and young men left the cafes where they watched the game on TV to drive around in cars, honking the horns.
The crowds chanted “One, two, three, viva Algeria!” and “Take us to the country of king Pele!” in reference to the great Brazilian player.
Boosted by their home fans inside the stadium in Blida, Algeria were the better team overall in a scrappy, tense match and should have led in the 22nd minute when Islam Slimani put a header wide of the left post when he had the goal at his mercy.
But Bougherra’s 49th-minute score gave Hallihodzic’s team the World Cup place, and players and coach were mobbed by fellow squad members and officials at full time. Players ran to the edge of the stands to celebrate with flag-waving supporters in the packed stadium.
Authorities had mobilised 9,000 security personnel for the game, mindful of how important fans in the football-crazy country view World Cup qualification.
Algeria played at the World Cup in 1982 and 1986 and has also reached back-to-back tournaments in 2010 and 2014. However, the country has never been past the first round at football’s main event.