16 June 2014

Algeria: No Excuses for Desert Foxes At World Cup

Photo: Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images-Stanbic
Algeria fans during the African Nations Cup.

Algeria have often flattered to deceive at finals tournaments, looking brilliant in the build-up but suffering from severe stage-fright when they get to the main event. They will hope that this time it is the young, but exciting, Belgian side who freeze in the limelight.

OVERVIEW

Belgium's much-vaunted young side, billed as among the most exciting at the 2014 World Cup, will get a first test against an Algerian outfit looking to make up for past disappointments.

The Desert Foxes did not score a single goal in the last World Cup in South Africa four years ago. In fact they have not scored at the finals since 1986, while a first round exit from the Africa Cup of Nations last year, also in South Africa, was a bitter pill for their fans to swallow.

It seems that when they get to the big stage all the creativity and flamboyance that was evident in qualifiers disappears.

Technically, they have good players, many born and raised in France, and aside from perhaps goal-scoring, there is little to point to as a weakness in the team.

Their Bosnian coach Vahid Halilhodzic says they are as prepared as they can be for the tournament, so the time for excuses is over and the moment to deliver on their potential has arrived.

What's more, they will feel they have a real chance to do something special in a group that also contains Russia and South Korea, two beatable sides. If they can get off to a good start here then a first-ever place in the second round of the World Cup will be there for the taking.

Belgium will be no pushover; a team with immense attacking talent and an experienced defence, they are many people's Dark Horses for the title.

But they are still young and perhaps will reach full maturity only at Russia in 2018. Still, the pressure and weight of expectation will be on them, with everybody - bar perhaps themselves - talking up what a good team they are.

That could count in Algeria's favour if anxiety levels start to peak in the European side. For that very reason perhaps it is a good thing Algeria have potentially their hardest group game up first.

KEY PLAYERS

Romelu Lukaku (Belgium) - Lukaku has been a fitness worry ahead of the game but the big forward looks as though he will be fit to play.

He brings pace, power, a rocket shot and excellent game intelligence that makes him a difficult opponent. At the age of just 21, he has the potential to be a global superstar.

Sofiane Feghouli (Algeria) - Feghouli is not a striker but plays a clever role behind the front two and pops up regularly into good scoring positions. The Valencia star, who can also play on the wing, was once called the "new Zidane", and must now live up to that star billing.

WHAT THEY SAY

Marc Wilmots (Belgium coach) - "We do a video analysis of the last 10 games, yes the last 10, to know every starting XI. I won't give you the sheets that I've got here, but I know about each [Algeria] player individually and in which system they played. So we are ready, we know everything about Algeria, but what I'm interested in is that our players know all about it."

Vahid Halilhodzic (Algeria coach) - "We've had the best preparations possible. We are also the only Arab team in the competition and we want to make absolutely sure we represent the country well and make them proud of us."

MATCH FACTS

Date: Tuesday, June 17

Kick-off: 16h00 (GMT)

Venue: Estádio Mineirão, Belo Horizonte

Referee: Marco Rodríguez (Mexico)

ALGERIA HEAD-TO-HEAD VS BELGIUM

P2 W0 D1 L1 GF1 GA3

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