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The Fennec Foxes are up against a tough group, but could surprise their opponents through tenacity
June 1, 20145:00AM ET
Players to watch
Footballers to follow on the émigré-dominated Algerian side include captain and defensive veteran Madjid Bougherra, who, at 31 years old, is the team’s oldest member. The French-born powerhouse is currently unattached to a club but most recently played for three years at Lekhwiya in Qatar. Forwards Islam Slimani and El Arbi Hillel Soudani lead the team offensively with 10 and 11 career goals for Algeria, respectively. Parisian-born goalkeeper Raïs M’Bolhi of CSKA Sofia and attacking midfielder Sofiane Feghouli of Valencia are also liable to deny, and create, big opportunities. Feghouli, who often plays as right winger, has been called a “physical beast” and “exceptional.”
While the team’s most resounding win was a 15–1 blowout in 1973 against South Yemen in Tripoli, Libya, the Fennec Foxes have never made it into the knockout round of a World Cup. However, they made it to the quarterfinals of the Olympics in 1980 and won the Africa Cup of Nations in 1990, when they hosted the tournament. They beat Nigeria in that final with 105,000 fans watching at 5 July 1962 Stadium in the Algerian capital. Cherif Oudjani’s goal in the 38th minute was the only score of the game.
As Group H’s second-seeded team and the 25th-ranked team overall in FIFA, Algeria will face big trouble against Belgium but has better odds against South Korea, and possibly even Russia. The Greens, as they are sometimes called, have qualified for four World Cups and are traditional sporting rivals with Morocco and Tunisia, neither of whom qualified this year. More recently, Egypt’s team has stoked the Algerians’ anger, following a key victory by Algiers in a 2010 qualifying match. Within the Confederation of African Football, Algeria handily made it into the cup this year. The team also had recent successes in friendly matches against Slovenia, Armenia and Romania. But defeating Seoul’s squad is the best hope for the only Arab nation represented in South America.
Having managed several teams on three continents, coach Vahid Halilhodžić is taking his Desert Warriors into the Brazil cup up against some difficult opponents. The manager, of Bosnian origin, who led Raja Casablanca to win the Moroccan championship and the African Champions League, has seen victory in three-fifths of his 23 games for the Algerian national squad. He’s hoping that the task of advancing beyond the first round will be easier than in 2010, when the team failed to score a single goal. But his mercurial demeanor, combined with the team’s proudly nationalistic fervor, could lead to surprising results over reputable European foes.
Did you know?
The Algerian soccer team started essentially as an act of resistance by the National Liberation Front (FLN). In 1958, several key players left the French team and went to Algeria, before there was an independent nation free of colonial rule from Paris. Known as “Le onze de l’indépendance” and used as an object of political propaganda, the FLN team gave way to the Algerian national team five years later.
Notably, Austria and West Germany are said to have worked together to keep Algeria from making it through to the next round in the 1982 World Cup by passing the ball around endlessly in the second half of their final group match. The Algerian team’s all-time top scorer is Abdelhafid Tasfaout, with 34 goals in 79 appearances.