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Algeria team profile

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Algeria

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Algeria will end a 24-year absence from football’s top table when they kick their first ball at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™. Les Fennecs (the Desert Foxes) may have won the CAF African Cup of Nations since appearing at Mexico 1986, but they spent a long time in the wilderness before slowly working their way back as a competitive force at the start of the century. The current crop of players feel stronger than ever, with enough belief to put in a historic performance in South Africa.
The road to South Africa
Until finally sealing their place via a one-off play-off match with Egypt in Khartoum, Sudan, on 18 November, Algeria both suffered and impressed in their qualifying campaign. They won all six of their home games in the second and third qualifying rounds but lost three of their away visits, while drawing twice and winning the other game. As a result, they finished one slender point ahead of Gambia, Senegal and Liberia in their first qualifying group, before ending on equal terms with the Pharaohs in their second, and bringing about the need for a play-off on neutral terrain. The duo nonetheless came in eight points ahead of Zambia and 11 ahead of Rwanda.
The star playersScorer of the goal that took Les Fennecs through to South Africa, Antar Yahia is one of the pillars at the back for his team, a status he shares with Madjid Bougherra, Nadir Belhadj and goalkeeper Lounes Gaouaoui, although back-up custodian Fawzi Chaouchi is now making serious claims on the gloves. Midfield is Algeria’s strength, meanwhile, with captain Yazid Mansouri spreading the ball around and forward-thinkers Karim Ziani and Mourad Meghni the most likely players to spark danger. Lastly, striker Karim Matmour has steadily been proving himself more than useful on the right wing.
The coach
Following a modest playing career in his homeland and briefly in France, ‘Cheik’ (the Elder, the Wise or the Master) Rabah Saadane quickly tried his hand at coaching. He soon found employment with the national association, first taking charge of various youth teams. In 1982, he was part of the coaching staff as Algeria disputed the 1982 FIFA World Cup in Spain. Four years later, he took over the reins of the national side but paid the price for poor results at the global showcase. He took up the post again for a short while in 1999, then from 2003 to 2004 and began his current stint in 2007. In the club game, the veteran trainer notably lifted the CAF Champions League with Raja Casablanca in 1989 and the Arab Champions League title with ES Setif in 2007.
Previous FIFA World Cups
South Africa will mark Algeria’s third appearance at a FIFA World Cup finals, and they will be looking to graduate from the group stage for the first time in their history. In 1982, they made history by defeating West Germany 2-1 and Chile 3-2, only to lose 2-0 to Austria. Four years on from their debut, with a certain Saadane in the dugout, they shared a 1-1 draw with Northern Ireland before losing 1-0 to Brazil and 3-0 to Spain.
Records1 CAF African Cup of Nations (1990)
What they said
"Our qualification has made it possible for the country to put itself back on the map. It’s a joy and even an honour to be at the origin of that. I’m touched to the see the happiness we have given our people. It’s a splendid example to have set the young,” Rabah Saadane, coach

Matmour: Algeria are ready

(FIFA.com) Tuesday 13 April 2010
Algeria are through to the FIFA World Cup™ finals for the first time since 1986. However, the North Africans would probably rather look back to the 1982 finals for inspiration, where they beat Germany and Chile but were desperately unlucky to be eliminated at the first group phase.
As in their previous FIFA World Cup appearances in Spain and Mexico, Les Fennecs (Desert Foxes) will be coached in South Africa by Rabah Saadane. For many years now, the boss has reserved a place in his team for Karim Matmour. The experienced striker, who currently goes for Bundesliga goals with Borussia Monchengladbach, featured in seven of his country’s qualifiers and contributed one goal to a successful campaign for a berth at the finals.
FIFA.com spoke to the friendly and approachable player about fellow Borussia star Michael Bradley of the USA, set to line up opposite Matmour in South Africa, his feelings after the tumultuous play-off victory over Egypt, and his country’s chances of achieving their goals at this summer’s finals.
FIFA.com: Karim, how important is regular club football when it comes to sealing a place in the national squad for the 2010 FIFA World Cup™, and for your role in the Algeria line-up?
Karim Matmour: It’s obviously important to be playing regularly for your club. You need time on the field with a World Cup approaching. I’m giving it my best shot and I’m clocking up appearances. I certainly have nothing to reproach myself for, and at the end of the day, it’s the coach’s decision. I have to do my talking out on the field.
You will cross swords with a club-mate in South Africa. How are you and USA star Michael Bradley dealing with the situation?
We’ve chatted about it from time to time, but I reckon the Algerian players know more about the USA than vice-versa. That has to be an edge for us, as we’re basically relative unknowns. Like I say, we do occasionally talk about our World Cup group, and pick up bits of information from each other.
Can the USA pose a real threat at the FIFA World Cup finals?The USA made the final of the Confederations Cup (in 2009). We’ll have to watch ourselves very carefully when we play them. They have plenty of quality and we’ll take them very seriously, as we do with all of our opponents. Every team in our group deserves respect.
We want to win all our games. Personally, I always run out on to the field expecting to leave it as a winner. Our realistic target is a place in the Round of 16.
Algeria's Karim Matmour
And how would you assess England and Slovenia?England are definitely favourites to win the group. Slovenia have qualified for the World Cup, so they have the class you need. I know about a handful of their players from the Bundesliga. But I do think we could spring a surprise.
Algeria played a giant-killing role in 1982 with victories over Germany and Chile. Could something similar happen in South Africa?
Definitely, and we musn't go to South Africa without the belief that we're capable of upsetting the favourites. We want to win as many of our games as we can, and we’ll do whatever it takes. We’re a young team, but we believe in our ability. The biggest disadvantage is our inexperience. The team has unbelievable potential, despite the lack of obvious star names. The coach, who led Algeria to the World Cup in 1982 and 1986, is a cool customer with tremendous expertise, and that’s what he’ll convey to the players.
Looking back briefly on the play-off against Egypt, how did you, your team-mates and the Algerian people feel after you won the tie?Our success against the Egyptians was one of the most emotional moments in my life. We made it to the World Cup finals for the first time in 24 years, so it was a huge triumph. We made 40 million Algerians around the world happy, and we were thrilled about that.
You’re through to the global showdown for the first time since 1986. What does that mean for the game at home?
It’s a real boost for the sport. Algeria is football-mad. We’ve not had much success as a national team for quite some time, but qualifying this time around is truly significant. It offers our best young players a vision for the future. There’s definitely renewed enthusiasm and a sense of euphoria.
The 2010 CAF Africa Cup of Nations was a sobering experience for Algeria. Why have you failed to make the final since 1
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990?The biggest problem has always been a lack of consistency. But we’ve been nice and settled for two years now, and we can focus on the essentials again. All credit to our association president and the coach. They’ve worked really hard on instilling discipline in the national team set-up. Our qualifying for South Africa was no accident.
What are Algeria aiming to achieve at the 2010 FIFA World Cup?
We want to win all our games. Personally, I always run out on to the field expecting to leave it as a winner. Our realistic target is a place in the Round of 16, which would be fantastic, although we’ve basically got to take it one step at a time.
One final question: What impression do you think the other African teams (Ghana, Nigeria, Côte d’Ivoire, Cameroon, South Africa) can make at the tournament on their home continent?
Obviously, this is a very special World Cup for these countries. Every player will run out with a very special feeling. I reckon an African team could go a very long way, which actually has mainly to do with most of the players being with European clubs and playing regularly at a very high level. All the teams you mention have lots of quality, and I’m obviously hoping we’re the ones who go the furthest.

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