South Africa will mark Algeria’s first trip to the World Cup in 24 long years. Their most memorable however came 28 years ago in 1982, a tournament which still elicits harsh response throughout the proud African nation. To this day their loyal supporters maintain that they were robbed of advancing past the group stage in ‘82. History will recall that the Algerians defeated the powerhouse West Germans and then topped that with an impressive victory over Chile, yet failed to advance. The controversy being that West Germany and Austria played to an exact score which suspiciously assured both of them in advancing through to the second round. Great outrage emanated throughout Algeria claiming the “fix” was in. Still, 28 years later, those memories have yet to subside throughout the country, and this year’s Algeria squad will look to control their own destiny in advancing this time around in South Africa.
Algeria will be placed in a tough group with the likes of a powerful England side, and two tournament dark-horses in the U.S.A. and Slovenia. They will be a roster filled with youth at this year’s World Cup, and enter action clearly lacking big stage experience. For those reasons don’t expect Algeria to make much noise in South Africa, but they do possess some talented, albeit inconsistent players who could frighten their superior opposition.
Although this team is devoid of notable accolades on the World Cup level, they appeared to be a strong side throughout the African qualification campaign. They tied this year’s African championship side Egypt in their group, forcing a one-game neutral-site playoff in the Sudan. Here it was defender Antar Yahia who scored a superb goal to vault the underdog Algerians into the South Africa. Algeria rode the momentum off this epic victory into the African Cup of Nations in early 2010 where they defeated tournament favourites, the Ivory Coast in extra time. Although they bowed out in the next round to the same Egypt side they prevented from going to South Africa, the Algerians emerged with confidence and exuberance from their recent form.
However, in the immediate lead-up to Algeria’s first match on June 13th, the tune-up games have not been kind to the underdog side. A pair of 3-0 losses to both Serbia and Ireland, have left the players questioning their own chances as they prepare for their first fixture against Slovenia. Despite these lopsided defeats, in all fairness to the Algerians they were fighting with numerous injury troubles, and should provide tighter competition when their tournament commences.
Coach Rabah Saadane will build his squad around their dynamic attacking midfielder Karim Ziani. He is a tireless worker in the middle of the pitch, and what he lacks in height, he more than makes up for with his fearless disposition. Expect Saadane to use to his star player primarily along the right flank where he has previously been effective in generating offense. They will employ a 4-4-2 with great strengths in the midfield and along the backline. Captain Yazid Mansouri along with Portsmouth’s Hassan Yebda should anchor the centre of the field, and will be imperative in winning balls for the aforementioned Ziani, and controlling the game. On defense, Antar Yahia of course scored the goal that got his nation to South Africa, but will be counted upon for stellar performances coming off of his award of the Top Arabian Footballer in 2009. The right and left defenders of Algeria, Madjid Bougherra, and Nadir Belhadj, love to come forward and are dangerous on the attack. Both play in the United Kingdom and will not be intimidated when going up against the world-class talent of group opponents England.
Although the Algerians have some nice pieces to their side, their flaws do outweigh their strengths. For all of their depth on the defensive side of the ball, they lack a lethal finisher up front. Their current lineup of Karim Matmour and Abdelkader Ghezzal are slow and possess pathetic goal scoring records at the international level. In South Africa, they will have to score when necessary to take the pressure of their midfield, allowing them to focus on their own game. Another big red flag within the Algerian camp will be the infighting that has ravaged the team in year’s past. In the recent African Nations Cup, a defeat to Malawi incited a brawl in the dressing room and rumours have circulated about the dissension within the team between the original Algerians and their French imports. For a side of Algerian’s inferior skill level, they will have to win games through great discipline and team unity. If they become unraveled in South Africa, a repeat of the heartbreak in 1982 could certainly resurface.
The Desert Foxes of Algeria have talent and will not be your typical pushover team that does not belong in South Africa. They enter ranked 30th in the world and coach Saadane has lofty hopes of advancing his squad into the knockout phase. Although they should remain competitive throughout their group matches, expect the Algerians to once again end up on the wrong side of the results. The key fixture will be their very first match against Slovenia. If they can ride the momentum of playing on their home continent and defeat them on June 13th, their road to the next round becomes dramatically easier. That said, it is hard to imagine the Algerians beating out the likes of any of their tough Group C opponents in South Africa. Rest assured, this time around the “fix” won’t be in, and Algeria will only have themselves to blame.
Prediction: First-Round Exit (4th Place in Group C)
Did you know you can Bet World Cup 2010 Online?