FIFA World Cup Prospectus: Algeria
Football.com will countdown the remaining time leading up to the World Cup with a 32-day preview of each team that will be participating. For those of you who want to know each team inside and out, the 32-Day 2014 FIFA World Cup Prospectus is the World Cup preview.
Group C: Japan
Group E: Switzerland, France
Group F: Bosnia-Herzegovina
Group G: United States
Nickname: Fennec Foxes
Previous World Cups: 1982, 1986, 2010
FIFA Ranking: 22
How Did They Get Here?
After toppling their qualifying group in the CAF World Cup qualifying group, Algeria found themselves in a playoff against Burkina Faso. After losing their away leg 3-2 from a controversial penalty, Algeria bounced back with a 1-0 victory in the home leg, advancing via aggregate.
Opponents (Match Date): Belgium (6/17), South Korea (6/22), Russia (626)
Finish in Group: Fourth
Why finish in Fourth?
This isn’t to say this team will lose badly. Algeria will exit the World Cup fully knowing that they didn’t give any of their opponents an easy match. They are athletic, but are too average in terms of creativity and defending. Even if they scrap against their opponents, they don’t boast a strong enough offense to reach the round of 16. Offense wins group stages. Defense wins the tournament.
How they can escape the group:
Don’t discredit Algeria because they are still capable of escaping their group. If they can grit out a draw against Belgium, then they should have the momentum to put pressure on the defensively fragile South Korea and offensively stagnant Russia and make it out of their group.
Grading each position:
Mohamed Zemmamouche is athletic and possesses decent reflexes, but despite his physical attributes the Mooch is prone to making mental mistakes. Although he’s a capable goal-stopper, Zemmamouche has looked unfocused at times and seems to make poor judgment on positioning. Given that this is the World Cup though, there’s no way focus should be a major problem.
Captain Madjid Bougherra and Liassine Cadamuro-Bentaiba will likely pair up as the anchor while Faouzi Ghoulam plays left-back and Mehdi Mostefa plays right-back. This is the unit that will be under barrage by the Belgium and South Koreans and cannot afford to lose any focus. Fortunately they have the experienced Bougherra leading them who has had experience scuffling against England and the U.S. back in 2010. While their strength and athleticism (along with acclimation to the hot Brazilian climate) presents them physical advantages over their opponents, chances are they are susceptible to getting carved up by great playmakers like Eden Hazard and Alan Dzagoev. We know they are physical capable of handling their opponents, but can they tactically prevent key passes from the opposing offense?
Center back Carl Medjani will move to the defensive midfield position, giving Algeria all the defensive help they need while Saphir Taider and Hassan Yebda take the central midfield role. They will also have Nabil Bentaleb coming off the bench. The trio isn’t a very creative core and usually can’t make those extra passes that can break down an elite defense, but they are tough and can hold their mettle against their opponents regardless where they’re from. Although they are cohesive with the backline, there will be problems in their ability to bring the ball up to the offensive third.
Steel-minded Sofiane Feghouli and Islam Slimani will be relied on bringing the ball to the attacking third of the pitch at the left and right wing, respectively. Playing up top to finish the chances will be El Arbi Hillel Soudani of Dinamo Zagreb. This attacking trio isn’t world class, but they may be enough to cause problems on the counter-attack and get that clinical finish. Feghouli is a natural winger and has a defensive mindset. He will be of much help at the defensive end and will ignite the counter once he wins the ball. The forwards aren’t the fastest players or the most skillful, but they’re strong and able to shake off defenders on strength alone.
Algeria has been performing well in the friendlies and seems to have a lot of confidence coming into the World Cup despite the odds against them. Coach Vahid Halilhodzic has been looked settled with his lineup and formations, using the friendlies to convince his team that they are capable of upsetting Group H. Nothing is expected from this team and Halilhodzic is cleverly using that to the team’s advantage. The coach has only lost five matches since his appointment in 2011, winning 17 and drawing in four. Even though most of the wins came against weak African countries, the consistency is something worth noting.
How can they win the World Cup?
Park the bus and counter, counter, and counter. Their defense will be key in eliminating each team one-by-one in the World Cup.
What’s There to like about Algeria?
Algeria is not known for tourism. In fact tourism only attributes to 1% of Algeria’s GDP. However, one national football icon hails from this country and led France to its first World Cup title in 1998, Zinedane “Zizzou” Zidane.
Their soccer fans are extremely passionate and are known for shrouding the stadium in smoke and red flares. Unfortunately, their team can only be remembered around the world for this one particular moment.
The monochrome designs for the home and away jersey are clean and sharp, but a bit too dull at the same time. It’s probably the safest way to go, considering their flag’s colors. The keeper kit on the other hand is tactically brilliant. Opposing forwards might be tempted to hit the ball straight at the keeper instead of the net.