Team Profile: Algeria
- Coach: Rabah Saadane
- Goalkeepers: Fawzi Chouachi (ES Setif), Lounes Gaouaoui (ASO Chlef), Rais M'bohi Ouheb (Slavia Sofia/Bulgaria)
- Defenders: Laifaoui Abdelkader (ES Setif), Madjid Bougherra (Rangers/Scotland), Carl Medjani (Ajaccio/France), Rafik Halliche (Nacional Madeira/Portugal), Anther Yahia (Bochum/Germany), Habib Belaid (Boulogne-sur-Mer/France), Nadir Belhadj (Portsmouth/England), Djamel Mesbah (Lecce/Italy)
- Midfielders: Hassan Yebda (Portsmouth/England), Mehdi Lacen (Racing Santander/Spain), Yazid Mansouri (Lorient/France), Adlane Guedioura (Wolves/England), Riad Boudebouz (Sochaux/France), Djamel Abdoun (Nantes/France), Fouad Kadir (Valenciennes/France), Karim Ziani (Wolfsburg/Germany), Karim Matmour (Borussia Monchengladbach/Germany)
- Forwards: Abdelkader Ghezzal (Siena/Italy), Rafik Djebbour (AEK Athens/Greece), Rafik Saifi (Istres/France)
Style of play: Coach Rabah Saadane employs a traditional 4-4-2 formation, with fullbacks Nadir Belhadj (on the right) and Madjid Bougherra (on the left) encouraged to join the attack by making probing runs down the wings. Hassan Yebda and Yazid Mansouri hold things together in the centre of midfield, pairing up to act as a screen in front of the back line. This allows the two outside midfielders, Karim Ziani and a partner, to drift from their positions on the wings towards the middle and then forward in attack to support strikers Abdelkader Ghezzal and Rafik Saifi.
1st round matches:
- June 13 vs. Slovenia in Polokwane
- June 18 vs. England in Cape Town
- June 23 vs. United States in Pretoria
Projected starting lineup (4-4-2): (GK) Faouzi Chaouchi - (D) Madjid Bougherra, Nadir Belhadj, Anthar Yahia, Rafik Halliche - (M) Yazid Mansouri, Hassan Yebda, Karim Ziani, Mehdi Lacen - (F) Abdelkader Ghezzal, Rafik Saifi
- Defence: Algeria's stingy back line is well-organized and its defenders are rarely caught out of position. They only gave up eight goals in 13 qualifying games, recording an impressive seven shutouts along the way.
- Top players: They may not look like much on paper, but Algeria can call upon top players, such as Karim Ziani, who play regular first-team soccer in Europe's most prestigious pro leagues.
- Confidence: Algeria is brimming with self-belief after qualifying for the World Cup for the first time since 1986. What's more, they booked their spot in South Africa after defeating Egypt, the best team in Africa, in a two-game playoff series.
- Goalkeeping: Neither Lounes Gaouaoui nor Faouzi Chaouchi, the top two candidates for the starting goalkeeper's position, inspire a lot of confidence. Without a reliable shot-stopper between the posts, Algeria's defence will be under even more pressure.
- Lack of strikers: Algeria doesn't have a world-class striker it can rely on for goals. Rafik Saifi is 35 years old and has lost a step. Antar Yahia, a defender, finished tied as top scorer for Algeria in the qualifiers, a clear indication of their lack of talent up front.
- Inconsistency: While Algeria did very well to stun heavily favoured Egypt in the qualifiers, the Desert Foxes looked woeful at the recent African Cup of Nations, losing 3-0 to Malawi and being stuffed 4-0 by Egypt in the semifinals.
Players to watch:
- Rafik Saifi - This forward loves to score dramatic, beautiful goals, even if he often misses scoring on simple opportunities, upsetting his teammates and coaches. Nevertheless, Saifi is extremely skilled, with excellent co-ordination.
- Antar Yahia - Tall and strong, Yahi is a dominating presence in the middle of Algeria's defence and he is also willing to throw his weight, and his sledgehammer foot, around to add a dimension to the offence.
- Karim Ziani - The midfielder stands only five-foot-six but he is a fearless and aggressive tackler - so much so that he and Wolfsburg teammate Edin Dzeko once came to blows in practice.
Key injuries/squad omissions: Midfielders Lazhar Hadj Aissa, Hocine Metref and Khaled Lemmouchia, defender Mohamed Meftah, goalkeeper Mohamed Lamine Zemmamouche, and forward Amri Chadli were named to Algeria`s preliminary roster but did not make the final cut. The loss of injured playmaker Mourad Meghni (left knee injury) is a big blow. Defender Madjid Bougherra has been hampered by a recent injury problem.
Prognosis: First-round exit. Algeria should not be taken lightly. The northern African country has plenty of players who see regular first-team soccer with tops clubs across the Europe, which means the Desert Foxes can field a pretty strong starting lineup. Problem is, they don`t have much depth beyond their starting 11. They'll battle it out with Slovenia for third place.
ROAD TO SOUTH AFRICA
- Current FIFA ranking: #31
- Qualification route: Algeria finished in first place (10 points) in Group 6 ahead of Gambia and Senegal (9 points) in the second round of the African qualifiers. Algeria and Egypt finished tied for first place (13 points) in Group 3 in the final round, setting up a one-game playoff (held in Sudan) to serve as a tiebreaker. Algeria defeated Egypt 1-0 in the match to win the group and advance to the World Cup.
- Key to qualification: Defence. Algeria had problems scoring, but the Africans knew how to keep their opponents off the score sheet, conceding just eight goals and registering seven shutouts in 13 qualifying games. Anthar Yahia served as the anchor of a tight and well-organized defence that worked in unison.
- Crucial result: A 1-0 win over Egypt (Nov. 18, 2009 in Sudan) in a one-game playoff to decide their group saw Algeria qualify for the World Cup for the first time in years.
- Qualifying record: 13 games played, 8 wins, 2 draws, 3 losses
- Goals for: 17
- Goals against: 8
- Top goal scorer in qualifying: Rafik Saifi, Antar Yahia and Karim Ziani (3)
Qualifying results: (home team listed first)
- May 31, 2008 - Senegal 1, Algeria 0
- June 6, 2008 - Algeria 3, Liberia 0
- June 14, 2008 - Gambia 1, Algeria 0
- June 20, 2008 - Algeria 1, Gambia 0
- Sept. 5, 2008 - Algeria 3, Senegal 2
- Oct. 11, 2008 - Liberia 0, Algeria 0
- March 28, 2009 - Rwanda 0, Algeria 0
- June 7, 2009 - Algeria 3, Egypt 1
- June 20, 2009 - Zambia 0, Algeria 2
- Sept. 6, 2009 - Algeria 1, Zambia 0
- Oct. 11, 2009 - Algeria 3, Rwanda 1
- Nov. 14, 2009 - Egypt 2, Algeria 0
- Nov. 18, 2009 - Algeria 1, Egypt 0
- Number of Previous World Cup Appearances: 2
- All-time record: 6 games played, 2 wins, 1 draw, 3 losses
- Goals for: 6
- Goals against: 10
- Biggest victory: 3-2 vs. Chile in 1982
- Biggest defeat: 3-0 vs. Spain in 1986
- Top scorer: Salah Assad (2 goals)
- Most appearances: Mahmoud Guendouz, Faouzi Mansouri and Rabah Madjer (6 matches)
- Hosted the World Cup: Never
World Cup track record
- 1930 to 1966 - Did not enter
- 1970 to 1978 - Did not qualify
- 1982 - First round
- 1986 - First round
- 1990 to 2006 - Did not qualify
- FIFA member since: 1964
- Team nickname: Les Fennecs (The Desert Foxes)
- All-time caps leader: Mahieddine Meftah (107)
- All-time leading scorer: Abdelhafid Tasfaout (35 goals)
- African Cup of Nations Champions: 1990
- African Youth Champions: 1979
- Lakhdar Belloumi: Considered among the best players to come out of Algeria, Belloumi scored the decisive goal in his country's 2-1 win over West Germany in 1982, one of the biggest upsets in the history of the World Cup.
- Rabah Madjer: The Algerian striker is most famous for scoring an outrageous backheel goal in the 1987 European Cup (now Champions League) final to help FC Porto upset Bayern Munich. Madjer was also a maintstay for Algeria's national team from 1978 to 1992, appearing in two World Cups (1982 and 1986).