Nickname: The Desert Foxes
Schedule: June 17 vs. Belgium, June 22 vs. South Korea, June 26 vs. Russia
World Cup History: Qualified (1982, 1986, 2010)
Rankings: FIFA (22), Elo (56)
Winning Odds: 1,500-1
The Algerians have been to three previous World Cups. The first, in 1982, was a heartbreaking. Algeria won two of their three group matches, including a shocking defeat of the Germans. But the Germans and Austrians conspired for a 1-0 Germany win, the soccer Anschulss, which sent both of them to the knockout round and Algerians home on goal difference.
Qualifying Form: Algeria survived the brutal final round of CAF qualifying. They drew Burkina Faso 3-3, and advanced on away goals.
Coach: Vahid Halilhodžić. The 61-year-old Bosnian native has managed multiple clubs, mostly in France. His last international spell was coaching the Ivory Coast. He qualified the Ivorians for the 2010 World Cup, but was fired four months before after losing in the quarterfinals of the African Cup of Nations.
Tactics: The Algerians play a flexible 4-1-4-1. They don’t offer a lot of quality going forward, but can present a number of different looks.
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Player to Watch: Sofiane Feghouli. The French-born 24-year-old winger switched registrations in 2011. Plying his club trade at Valencia, he has great pace and technique and can be a threat from multiple positions in the attacking phase. He’s not quite a “star” on the continent, but perhaps the closest thing the Algerians have.
Squad: This is a young, inexperienced Algerian team. Captain and defender Madjid Bougherra is the only player older than 30 and the only one with more than 30 caps. They don’t have the elite star power of some other African sides, but, with much of the team reared in French academies, they have a relatively high floor.
Algeria may be a more interesting team for 2018. They have a number of guys – Faouzi Ghoulam (23, Napoli), Nabil Bentaleb (19, Tottenham), Saphir Taider (22, Inter Milan) – who have the talent to have been picked up by some of the world’s biggest clubs but have not quite worked their way into the team yet.
This team is more ambitious with the ball than the one that took the field in South Africa, but also not as defensively sound.
Group Outlook: The next step for Algerian soccer is to reach the knockout round. That will be a tough ask of them. Belgium and Russia are two very solid European outfits. South Korea has reached at least the knockout round at two of the last three World Cups. There’s a reason they are one of the tournament’s biggest underdogs.
Arbitrary Algerian Power Rankings: 1. Barbarossa 2. Augustine of Hippo 3. Frantz Fanon 4. Tariq ibn Ziyad 5. Yacef Saadi
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