Algeria – World Cup 2014 – Group H

ALGERIA

17-June Belgium (5pm GMT Belo Horizonte)

22-June South Korea (8pm GMT Porto Alegre)

26-June Russia (9pm GMT Curitiba)

Algeria just snuck past an in-form Burkina Faso to get to Brazil 2014. However,Terrance Ross argues that the North African side can spring a surprise in a wide-open group.

Coach: Vahid Halilhodzic

After being fired as manager of Ivory Coast merely months before the 2010 World Cup, Vahid Halilhodzic thought he would never take the reins of another African side. But four years later and the 61-year-old Bosnian is set to finally make his World Cup debut as Coach with Algeria. Halilhodzic led Algeria to an impressive six wins out of eight in World Cup qualifying. Ever cautious, he tends to opt for an organized approach while banking on the attacking flair of his front line to produce the goods.

Why they could be dangerous

Algeria will be relatively happy with their World Cup draw. Though everyone’sfavourite dark-horses Belgium will be expected to top the group, Algeria will take their chances against the likes of South Korea and Russia. Buoyed by the arrival of French-born Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Nabil Bentaleb into the side, this Algerian team boasts more quality around the pitch than the 2010 side. They are also filled with more European born players than before – a core tenet of Halilhodzic’s time in charge.

The world on his shoulders: Sofiane Feghouli

The 24-year-old attacking midfielder will be expected to be Algeria’s driving force at the World Cup. The skilful and dynamic Feghouli has impressed with Valencia in Spain, with his performance at the Nou Camp against Barcelona one of the highlights of the season. However, for all of his technical ability, he’s been known to be woefully inconsistent at times and Algeria will need him at his best if they hope to have any chance of progressing.

Did you know?

Algeria is responsible for the tradition of the last group stage matches being played at the same time. During their debut tournament in 1982, Algeria were favourites to qualify if West Germany could manage to beat Austria by a couple of goals. However, if West Germany won by only one goal both West Germany and Austria would go through. After Germany scored against Austria in the first 10 minutes, both teams proceeded to kick the ball around aimlessly for the rest of the game, prompting a huge outcry from the international soccer community and the subsequent rule change.

Country legend: Lakhdar Belloumi

Lakhdar Belloumi represented Algeria in four African Cup of Nations and two World Cups during his playing career. He’s Algeria’s most capped player ever as well, amassing 101 appearances during his 11 years with the national team. He scored the game winning goal against West Germany in 1982 in what remains to date as Algeria’s finest ever World Cup moment. He was named the fourth best African player of the century.

Formation: 4-3-2-1

Halilhodzic is likely to opt for his 4-3-2-1 system which is mostly a 4-5-1 in disguise. Bentaleb and Inter midfielder Saphir Taider are expected to play a pivotal role in midfield, with Feghouli providing a spark on the wing.  The side should be able to possess the ball and build from the back through captainMadjid Bougherra, but the full-backs will have to get forward and create havoc or Algeria’s attacking players will be left isolated.

Algeria versus…

…Belgium P2 W0 D1 L1 F1 A3

…South Korea P3 W0 D0 L3 F2 A8

…Russia P1 W0 D1 L0 F2 A2

Stats

Population: 38.5 million

World Cup appearances: 3

Best finish: Group stages in Spain 1982, Mexico 1986 and South Africa 2010

Famous for: A 2-1 win over reigning champions West Germany in 1982 on their World Cup debut.

Top Division: Algerian Ligue Professionnelle 1

How they got to the World Cup: Won a play-off against Burkina Faso on away goals after a 3-3 aggregate tie.

FIFA World Ranking: 25

Last World Cup Appearance: South Africa 2010 – Group Stage

Continental Honours1990 African Cup of Nations Champions

Most Capped Player: Lakhdar Belloumi (101 Caps)

Leading International Scorer: Abdelhafid Tasafaout (35 Goals)

Nickname: Les Fennecs – The Fennec Foxes