ALGIERS: Algerian fans turned their capital into a frenzy of fireworks, chants and dancing on Thursday night to celebrate their team’s passage into the World Cup’s final 16 for the first time.
Draped in Algeria’s green and white flags, fans packed downtown Algiers watching their team draw 1-1 with Russia on a large screen near the historic Grande Poste among the city’s white-washed colonial buildings.
The point secured second-place behind Belgium in Group H and Algiers erupted into an explosion of fireworks, car horns, singing and chants of “1, 2, 3 Viva L’Algerie”. A ship’s fog horn blasted out from Algiers bay in celebration.
“Magnificent. What a pleasure to go through. It’s our first time, we are representing all Arabs and Muslims,” said Hassan Saheb, discussing Algeria’s progress to the tournament’s knockout stages with neighbours on Friday. “Everything is possible now. It’s not a science, it’s a game.”
It was the first time in four attempts that Algeria, among the top-ranked African teams over the last two years, made it past the first round. Four years ago, in South Africa, they went home without scoring.
“They did it” screamed the headline from El Watan daily newspaper, declaring the “The Greens make history” for the team known as the Fennecs or Desert Foxes.
In France, police arrested 74 people as thousands of Algeria supporters took to the streets, with riot police firing tear gas in one case to disperse a crowd after scuffles in the southern port city of Marseille, according to a French interior ministry spokesman.
Celebrations in Algiers were tempered slightly by the prospect of facing Germany, one of the tournament favourites, in the last 16 on Monday.
“Germany will be difficult. For us, I think we have a 10 percent chance against them,” said Algiers resident Adbas Jamal. “If we
beat Germany though it will be a miracle.” REUTERS