Fiery Algeria will defy whipping boy status, but progress is step too far
According to Fifa rankings, Algeria are the worst team competing in Group C, but dismissing them as certain bottom-dwellers may be foolish.
A lowly 31st place on the world ladder belies the manner of their qualification and a strong showing at the African Cup of Nations earlier this year, and they pose enough of a threat to derail Slovenia in their opening game.
Algeria qualified for the 2010 World Cup in unique circumstances by despatching Egypt 1-0 in a play-off that was specially arranged after the two countries finished tied at the top of their group. This is an Egypt team that went on to win the African Cup of Nations and is ranked 13th in Fifa’s rankings, above both USA and Slovenia.
Algeria’s potential was again demonstrated at the African Cup of Nations in January, when they knocked out Didier Drogba’s Ivory Coast in the quarter finals.
With marauding wing-backs Nadir Belhadj and Rangers’ Madjid Bougherra on either flank Algeria possess two quick players with an instinct to attack. Allowing them a free reign is a tactic that should work well against a Slovenia side who prefer a slower-paced game.
The temperament of Algeria’s players is a liability though. In their semi-final match at the African Cup of Nations against Egypt, Algeria had three men, including Portsmouth’s Belhadj, sent off and lost 4-0. Of the provisional squad only eight players have more than 20 caps and an ill-tempered repeat should things not go their way.
Their last appearance at the World Cup was in 1986 and while current manager Rabah Saâdane led them out on that occasion too, they failed to make it beyond the group stage of the competition. Algeria should go out before the knock out phase again, but not before an unexpected sparkle.