Algeria World Cup 2014: Team Guide for FIFA Tournament
Algeria didn’t impress during the 2013 Cup of Nations and were eliminated in the group stage. Bosnian manager Vahid Halilhodzic kept his job, however, and guided the Desert Foxes to the World Cup.
Following the failure of Egypt and Tunisia in the play-offs, Algeria will travel to Brazil as North Africa’s sole representatives, and, indeed, as the only Arab nation in the tournament.
In the past, the side have suffered from imbalances, have been packed with defensive players and have often struggled for creativity.
The recent squad additions of Faouzi Ghoulam, Aissa Mandi, Saphir Taider, Nabil Bentaleb and Yacine Brahimi have gone some way to changing this. None of those listed have more than nine caps, however, and their true benefit may come after this summer.
Road to the Finals
The North Africans overcame a disappointing Cup of Nations campaign in early 2013 to qualify for the World Cup in convincing style. They lost only once in an opening group containing Mali, Benin and Rwanda, before dispatching with Burkina Faso after a tense play-off doubleheader.
While Algeria’s defence delivered a disastrous performance against the Stallions, their forwards were in fine fettle during qualification.
Islam Slimani scored five times, while Sofiane Feghouli and El Arbi Hillel scored three times each.
Algeria revealed their preliminary squad of 30 players on Monday, becoming the second African nation (after Nigeria) to do so.
There were few surprises in the side, although there was no place for highly-regarded Internazionale forward Ishak Belfodil.
There was a first call-up for Leicester City winger Riyad Mahrez, while Aissa Mandi and Nabil Bentaleb retained their spots after making their debut in the friendly match against Slovenia.
Ryad Boudebouz was re-called after an absence of over a year.
You can find Bleacher Report’s Player-by-Player World Cup Guide here: Algeria World Cup 2014 Squad
Provisional Algeria Squad
Goalkeepers: Azzedine Doukha (USM El-Harrach), Rais M'Bolhi (CSKA Sofia), Cedric Si Mohamed (CS Constantine), Mohamed Lamine Zemmamouche (USM Alger).
Defenders: Essaid Belkalem (Watford), Madjid Bougherra (Lekhwya Club), Liassine Cadamuro (Mallorca), Faouzi Ghoualm (Napoli), Rafik Halliche (Academica de Coimbra), Nacereddine Khoualed (USM Alger), Aissa Mandi (Stade de Reims), Carl Medjani (Valenciennes), Djamel Mesbah (Livorno), Mehdi Mostefa (AC Ajaccio).
Midfielders: Nabil Bentaleb (Tottenham), Ryad Boudebouz (Bastia), Yasine Brahimi (Granada), Adlene Guedioura (Crystal Palace), Amir Karaoui (Entente de Setif), Medhi Lacen (Getafe), Saphir Taider (Inter Milan), Hassan Yebda (Udinese).
Forwards: Abdelmoumene Djabou (Club Africain), Rafik Djebbour (Nottingham Forest), Sofiane Feghouli (Valencia), Nabil Ghilas (Porto), Foued Kadir (Rennes), Riyad Mahrez (Leicester), Islam Slimani (Sporting Lisbon), Hilal Soudani (Dinamo Zagreb).
Sixty-one-year-old Vahid Halilhodzic took the Algeria job in 2011 and has built a combative squad which he has managed to balance at just the right time.
The Bosnian played at the 1982 World Cup, featuring for Yugoslavia, and starred for Paris Saint-Germain, Nantes and Velez Mostar during a prolific career.
After hanging up his boots, he took various top jobs with nations and club sides across the world.
He won the Coupe de France with PSG in 2004, the CAF Champions League with Raja Casablanca in 1997 and guided the Cote d’Ivoire to the World Cup four years ago, following an unbeaten two-year run in qualifiers.
Sofiane Feghouli remains Algeria’s go-to creator and may well prove to be the difference between another impotent World Cup showing (the Desert Foxes didn’t score in South Africa four years ago) and progression to the knock-out stages.
The North Africans’ solid base will be charged with supporting the Valencia playmaker, while he, simultaneously, will be required to provide for the forward line.
There is a hope that the likes of Yacine Brahimi and even Ryad Boudebouz can help ease the creative burden, but when Halilhodzic wants to remain tight and compact against the likes of Belgium and South Korea, the onus will fall solely on Feghouli.
One to Watch
Faouzi Ghoulam has come on leaps and bounds over the last 18 months and can feasibly claim to be Africa’s best left-back at the moment.
On the opposite flank, Aissa Mandi [pictured] has only played one game for the national side but already looks like a natural fit for international football and could be the Desert Foxes’ right-back for a decade to come.
Like Ghoulam, the Stade de Reims defender was born in France but turned his back on a future with Les Bleus to represent the land of his parents. He could be set to move on to bigger and better things after the tournament.
World Cup Record
1982 – Group Stage P3 W2 D0 L1 GF5 GA5
Star Man: Rabah Madjer, who later won the European Cup with FC Porto, scored the opening goal against West Germany as the North Africans made a magnificent start to life among the elite. They won 2-1 in their first-ever World Cup match.
1986 – Group Stage P3 W0 D1 L2 GF1 GA5
Star Man: In a disappointing showing for the Desert Foxes, Djamel Zidane was a rare ray of light. The forward scored a free kick against Northern Ireland in a 1-1 draw.
2010 – Group Stage P3 W0 D1 L2 GF0 GA2
Star Man: Slim pickings here, but Rais M’Bolhi stepped between the sticks to replace the haphazard Faouzi Ghaouchi and kept a clean sheet against England.
Tuesday 17 June, 1 p.m. local time, Estadio Mineirao, Belo Horinzonte vs. BELGIUM
Sunday 22 June, 4 p.m. local time, Estadio Beira-Rio, Porto Alegre vs. KOREA REPUBLIC
Thursday 26 June, 5 p.m. local time, Arena da Baixada, Curitiba vs. RUSSIA