They might be 350/1 outsiders to win the World Cup, but Fabio Capello is not foolish enough to take three points against Algeria for granted.
With pace on both wings and defensive resilience as shown in their qualifying campaign when they defeated Africa’s strongest side Egypt in the World Cup play-off, the north Africans have the potential to be among the last 16, particularly with group rivals USA stumbling.
Tonight they travel to the RDS Arena in Dublin to face a Republic of Ireland side who beat a strong Paraguay side there on Tuesday evening. Conversely, Algeria’s last competitive game was over three months ago – a 3-0 defeat at the hands of Serbia in their own back yard.
So they’re likely to be a tad rusty, with one more warm-up game scheduled against UAE next month, but boss Rabah Saadane’s team selection should still be interesting, given that injured Yassan Yabda could make a return, while Nadir Belhadji will miss Algeria’s World Cup opener against Slovenia, Saadane may opt to field his likely replacement.
Big players Madjid Bougherra, Rafik Saifi and Antar Yahia are unlikely to be risked, while Algeria are still reeling from the news that star midfielder Mourad Meghni will miss the tournament with a knee injury.
So it’s not surprising, despite failing to for the World Cup, that the hosts remain favourites at 4/5, with Algeria 3/1 to snatch an unlikely away win. But Giovanni Trapattoni will still be experimenting with his side, with the Euro 2012 qualifiers in mind, so the draw looks the pick at 11/5.
Both sides can find the back of the net, and with Republic of Ireland having not kept a clean sheet in four games, both teams to score at evens and over 2.5 goals at the same price also look sound bets.