Algeria Preview – Algerians Potential Surprise Package
World Cup 2014
Unfancied Algeria travel to Brazil without the weighty expectations of other nations but may just suprise a few people along the way.
Algeria went into last year’s African Nations Cup as one of the pre-tournament favourites, but made a dreadful hash of what was admittedly a tricky group, losing to Tunisia and Togo, and managing a meaningless draw with the Ivory Coast
New manager Vahid Hilihodzic, who had been in post for just six months was under intense pressure, but a run of five straight wins steadied the ship. His team have won eight of their last ten, including a friendly win over Slovenia in March, and although the form doesn’t amount to much, they have the look of an improving side.
Algeria lost their second qualifying game against main Group H rivals Mali, but from then on it was plain sailing as they thrashed Benin and Rwanda home and away, while Mali blew their chances by dropping points against the minnows.
They were handed a potentially tricky draw in the final round of qualifying, against African Nations Cup runners-up Burkina Faso, but sneaked through on away goals. They lost a controversial away leg 3-2, thanks to a dodgy penalty decision, then came through a bruising return match with a 1-0 victory courtesy of a second-half goal from captain Madjid Bougherra.
Hilihodzic has freshened up the Algerian squad by integrating a few younger players, such as wingers Yacine Brahimi and Valencia’s Sofiane Feghouli, who could both catch the eye in Rio, and Tottenham’s Nabil Bentaleb, who made his international debut against Slovenia and is likely to feature in the centre of midfield.
But finding defensive talent has proved a harder task. Algeria will rely heavily on the experience and physical presence of Boughera, but the squad is light on quality defenders.
In order to progress from a relatively tough group, Algeria will have to steal points from the two European sides in their section. They will be able to play with freedom in their opening game against the fancied Belgians, but their third game against Russia will be a tense one, so it is vital for them to win their second, against the lowest ranked team in the Group, South Korea.
We can expect a more dynamic Algerian side this time round than the one that turned up for the last World Cup. Energetic, youthful and attack-minded, they are capable of giving both Belgium and Russia a fright.
A second round encounter with Germany or Portugal makes them unlikely quarter-finalists, but I think they can cause a surprise in their opening match against Belgium and use that as a springboard to reach the second round. Back them at 11/2 in the World Cup Group H – To Qualify market, and back the draw in the Belgium v Algeria Match Betting market at 10/3.