(Updates with further quotes, details)
By Andrew Cawthorne
BELO HORIZONTE, Brazil, June 17 (Reuters) - Algeria’s coach conceded his inexperienced team were exposed by a much fitter Belgium on Tuesday but also complained a foul was missed in the runup to the deciding goal during the Africans’ 2-1 defeat.
Algeria scored their first World Cup goal in 28 years to take a surprise first-half lead against the Group H favourites when playmaker Sofiane Feghouli fired home from the penalty spot.
But their resilience withered in the second half and they let the Europeans take control with Marouane Fellaini scoring a superb header on 70 minutes and Dries Mertens drilling home the winner 10 minutes from time.
“We let them play in the second half,” the Franco-Bosnian Vahid Halilhodzic told reporters. “We should have run a little bit more, we should have dared a bit more. Physically, the Belgium players are much stronger.”
Halilhodzic pinpointed lack of condition as a reason for his side’s late capitulation. “My players were lacking in the second half, some of them were asking to be substituted,” he said.
”The second half showed the difference in experience. They showed freshness, we committed small faults. But there was a lot of quality in our play.
“I have a number of players that are rather limited, they’re young, they’re not that experienced, they can’t play 90 minutes. Each Algerian player needs to improve his physical condition by 30 to 50 percent. The Belgian players are in much better shape.”
Halilhodzic accused Mexican referee Marco Rodriguez of missing a foul from Kevin De Bruyne on Feghouli prior to Belgium’s second and winning goal.
“There was a tackle from behind on Feghouli and for me it was an obvious foul. This could have changed everything because the second goal would not have been scored,” he said.
“I may be subjective because it’s my team, but I saw a foul. After that, a second goal was scored and that meant a defeat for us and that hurts.”
Belgium coach Marc Wilmots rejected that, however, saying the tackle was “perfectly” executed.
Despite the defeat, Halilhodzic said his team had made Algeria proud and pretty much played to their potential.
“We could have won. We were heroic in the first half. At half-time I was sure we would make it. We’ve missed a major opportunity. But I don’t want to blame anyone. You can say I am the one to be blamed, as usual,” he laughed.
“Belgium is one of the best teams in Europe. My team gave as much as they could in the present time.”
Algeria’s two other group games are against Russia and South Korea, who play each other later on Tuesday. (Writing by Andrew Cawthorne and Toby Davis; editing by Justin Palmer)