Give credit to Algeria for booking a spot at the World Cup. Although they qualified for the 2010 tournament in South Africa, Les Fennecs (the Desert foxes) failed to qualify for the 2012 African Cup of Nations and appeared to be in a free fall after they finished last place in their group at last year’s continental competition. They’ve since rebounded, but don’t expect much from them next summer.
Goalkeepers: Rais Mbolhi (CSKA Sofia), Cedric Si Mohamed (CS Constantine), Mohamed Lamine Zemmamouche (USM Alger)
Defenders: Essaid Belkalem (Granada), Madjid Bougherra (Lekhwya Club), Liassine Cadamuro (Mallorca), Faouzi Ghoualm (Napoli), Rafik Halliche (Academica Coimbra), Aissa Mandi (Stade Reims), Carl Medjani (Valenciennes), Djamel Mesbah (Livorno), Mehdi Mostefa (AC Ajaccio)
Midfielders: Nabil Bentaleb (Tottenham), Yasine Brahimi (Granada), Medhi Lacen (Getafe), Saphir Taider (Inter Milan), Hassan Yebda (Udinese)
Forwards: Abdelmoumene Djabou (Club Africain), Sofiane Feghouli (Valencia), Nabil Ghilas (Porto), Riyad Mahrez (Leicester City), Islam Slimani (Sporting Lisbon), Hilal Soudani (Dinamo Zagreb)
Former Paris Saint-Germain manager Vahid Halilhodzic steadied the ship since taking over in 2011, guiding Algeria through a successful African qualifying campaign in leading the country to its fourth overall World Cup appearance
4-3-2-1: (GK) Zemmamouche – (D) Mesbah, Bougherra, Medjani, Halliche – (M) Taider, Yebda, Bentaleb, Feghouli, Soudani – (F) Slimani
Group H schedule
June 17: vs. Belgium in Belo Horizonte
June 22: vs. South Korea in Porto Alegre
June 26: vs. Russia in Curitiba
How they qualified
Algeria cruised through the group stage of the African qualifiers, winning Group H by an impressive seven points over Mali on the strength of five wins (and only one loss) in six games. They had a harder time of it in the playoffs, but won the first leg 3-2 against Burkino Faso on the road, setting themselves up to clinch a World Cup berth in the home return leg. Along the way, Algeria conceded just six goals in eight matches.
Halilhodzic has put together a well-organized and compact side that is tough for opponents to break down. He also wasn’t afraid to make changes, showing several veterans the door and giving opportunities to young prospects. Under Halilhodzic, Algeria is a well-disciplined team playing with supreme confidence.
Algeria was not really tested in the African qualifiers. They’ll find the going much tougher at the World Cup in Brazil where the calibre of opponents is higher. They lack genuine quality and depth compared to other nations. This is also a team of few game-breakers—players who can change the face of a match with a sudden act of individual brilliance.
Players to watch
Islam Slimani: The Sporting Lisbon forward finished tied for second in scoring in the African qualifiers with five goals. A bright prospect.
Djamel Mesbah: An attacking left fullback who adds width to the Algerian attack. Can also play in midfield.
Madjid Bougherra: A tough and physical defender who serves as the team’s captain. Also a threat going forward and on set pieces.
Will Halilhodzic take risks? The Bosnian manager is as pragmatic and conservative as is comes in terms of tactics, relying on counter-attacks and set pieces for goals. At some point he’ll likely have to loosen the restraints and abandon his “containment” game.
Prospects in Brazil
They’re not going to get out of the group. A tough, opening match against Belgium will likely mean they’ll have to claim four points from their last two games to have a shot as the second-place team. Another early plane ride home looms—advancing to the round of 16 would be shocking.
World Cup history
Algeria made its World Cup debut in 1982 in Spain and won the hearts of neutrals when it beat West Germany in one of the biggest upsets in the competition’s history. And but for a bit of chicanery between the Germans and Austrians, they might have advanced out of the group stage. Two first-round exits sandwiched a four-tournament exile by the Algerians, who are looking to become one of a few African nations to make it to the knockout round.
• 1930 to 1962—Did not enter
• 1970 to 1978—Did not qualify
• 1982—First round
• 1986—First round
• 1994 to 2006—Did not qualify
• 2010—First round
Algeria || Argentina || Australia || Belgium || Bosnia and Herzegovina || Brazil || Cameroon || Chile || Colombia || Costa Rica || Croatia || Ecuador || England || France || Germany || Ghana || Greece || Holland || Honduras || Iran || Italy || Ivory Coast || Japan || Mexico || Nigeria || Portugal || Russia || South Korea || Spain || Switzerland || Uruguay || United States