2014 World Cup Group H team previews: Algeria
Algeria have promised to improve on an embarrassing World Cup record when they compete at the 2014 finals in Brazil.
The “Desert Foxes” last won a match at the tournament 32 years ago and have scored only once in six games during two subsequent appearances.
But experienced midfielder Foued Kadir, who was left out of the squad, says his country can do better with a more experienced squad than that which flopped in South Africa four years ago.
“You will see a different Algeria in Brazil, with more maturity and experience than the 2010 squad,” said Kadir.
“Our ambitions are to win matches and qualify for the knockout stage. So much hinges on the first game against Belgium.
“Everybody is assuming the Belgians are going to top the group, leaving the other three teams fighting for second place.
“If we can get at least a draw against Belgium our chances of making the knockout stages will greatly improve,” he added.
South Korea and 2018 World Cup hosts Russia complete Group H, which is spread over five venues.
Numerous France-born Algerians have made the squad, including Udinese’s Hassan Yebda and Porto striker Nabil Ghilas.
Football ties between France and Algeria run deep with Lille-born Tottenham Hotspur central midfielder Nabil Bentaleb opting for Algeria.
The 19-year-old played for France at age-limit level before being persuaded to represent the country of his parents.
He made his international debut during March in a 2-0 win in a friendly at home to Slovenia, who defeated Algeria at the 2010 World Cup.
It was a rare victory over European opposition and raised morale ahead of Brazil – an expedition pundits believe will end in first-round failure.
“A mediocre squad that has some flair but remains largely cynical and committed to gamesmanship and time wasting,” was the dismissive summary of one pundit.
Scoring at the highest level has long been a problem for Algeria and strikers Islam Slimani and El Hilal Soudani carry heavy burdens.
Slimani scored five goals and Soudani three in the qualifiers with three more coming from Valencia wide midfielder Sofiane Feghouli.
However, veteran defender and captain Madjid Bougherra was credited with the scrambled goal that took his country to the finals at the expense of Burkina Faso.
Algeria made a spectacular start to World Cup participation in 1982, shocking then European champions and eventual finalists West Germany with a 2-1 victory and also defeating Chile after losing to Austria.
However, they were deprived of a second-round place in Spain by goal difference after the Germans beat the Austrians in controversial circumstances.
Many who watched the game believed the result was contrived, and Fifa reacted by staging final group fixtures simultaneously in future tournaments.
Algeria also reached the following World Cup in 1986, but after drawing with Northern Ireland in Mexico they lost to Brazil and Spain.
A 24-year gap ensued before the next appearance and losses to Slovenia and the United States and a drab draw with England meant another early departure.
Five to watch:
Madjid Bougherra, defender (Al Lekhwiya, Qatar); Age 31; 61 caps. Tough-talking and -tackling captain of team whose spirited personality keeps him in team when he is evidently past his best. Has been playing club football in Qatar for last three years after journeyman career that included spells at Crewe Alexandra, Sheffield Wednesday and Charlton Athletic, before making his name at Glasgow Rangers.
Nabil Bentaleb, midfielder (Tottenham Hotspur); Age 19; 1 cap. Whirlwind few months for the teenager, promoted to Spurs’ first team after Tim Sherwood took over as manager and then winning a call-up from Algeria, who tempted him with the prospect of playing in World Cup to switch allegiance from France. Strong central midfielder who has not looked out of place since Premier League debut.
Sofiane Feghouli, midfielder (Valencia); Age 24; 17 caps. Since debut just before start of World Cup qualifiers has quickly evolved into heartbeat and creative force of Algeria side. Started on right side of attack but now plays more central role.
Saphir Taider, midfielder (Inter Milan); Age 22; 9 caps. Born in France to Tunisian father and Algerian mother, his elder brother Nabil bizarrely plays for Tunisia while he has thrown his lot in with Algeria. Has not missed match since first outing against Benin last year, where he made an instant impact with a debut goal. Inter bought him last summer from Bologna.
Islam Slimani, striker (Sporting Lisbon); Age 25; 18 caps. Will be Algeria’s key attacker having posted impressive ratio of one goal every other game for his country. Debut season at Sporting Lisbon started slowly but has come on strongly this year and become a folk hero among the fans after scoring the winner against champions Porto in March. Voted Algerian Footballer of the Year for 2013.
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Published: May 29, 2014 04:00 AM