Slovenia taste first success in World Cup

Captain Robert Koren scores a late goal to give Slovenia a 1-0 win over 10-man Algeria and first place in Group C.

Algeria's Rafik Saifi, below, and Slovenia's Bostjan Cesar battle for a header at the Peter Mokaba stadium in Polokwane.
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POLOKWANE // Robert Koren scored a late goal 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. The 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 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 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 favorites drew 1-1 Saturday after a blunder by goalkeeper Robert Green cost England the victory.

The players showed nerves in the first half, frequently losing possession with inaccurate passes and crosses. Slovenia's only scoring chance before the break was Valter Birsa's long-range attempt in the 43rd, tipped over the bar in a spectacular right-hand save by Chaouchi. There was some commotion in the stands during the break when former France great Zinedine Zidane, who is of Algerian descent, was forced to climb to a higher section to get away from autograph-seeking Algerian fans who were pushed back briskly by security guards. 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. The match could have taken a different turn when Algeria midfielder Karim Ziani caught defender Marko Suler off guard and pushed toward the Slovenian goal but was cut off by Handanovic. Algeria beat North African rival Egypt in a tense playoff to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1986. Slovenia reached its second World Cup with an upset playoff victory over Russia. * AP Red card: Abdelkader Ghezzal Man of the match: Robert Koren

Group C
Country M W D L GF GA Pts
Slovenia 1 1 0 0 1 0 3
England 1 0 1 0 1 1 1
USA 1 0 1 0 1 1 1
Algeria 1 0 0 1 0 1 0