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Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Sports Thread #1/2014 FIFA World Cup 2-A Days Team Runthrough #1 For 5/29/14: #29 Algeria- A Talented Team By Way of France

Photo from CAF 

Projected Lineup (4-5-1): 

                         M'Bolhi

Mandi - Cadamuro- Bougherra- Goulam

                          Lacen
               Taider           Bentaleb
Feghouli                                   Silmani

                        Soudani (Ghilas)

             
 The Runthrough: 

As the least heralded of the five CAF teams, Algeria are fully aware that any progression to the knockout stages will be a remarkable result. In fact, they feel fortunate to even return to the competition for the fourth time after getting by Burkana Faso on away goals in the CAF playoffs.

With the 24 year gap from their last two appearances on the global stage (1982 and 1986), Algeria hopes this World Cup and the last one will be a sign of consistency for the North Africa nation. With the young talent they have currently in their midfield (mostly from France), they should expect nothing less.

All prominent, offensive attention is placed on Valencia's energetic right midfielder Sofiane Feghouli, who shined in a season full of dim lights for the notable La Liga outfit. Unfortunately for Feghouli, his responsibilities for manager Vahid Halilhodzic rely on playmaking from the middle as a true #10 and not the side midfield role that gets the most out of his talent.

It will be vital for Feghouli to be allowed to operate on the right side and that will only happen if young two way midfielder talents Nacib Bentaleb and Saphir Tarder make their presence felt in the middle. Bentaleb was a major addition to Halilhodzic's side after busting onto the seen as a midseason revelation for Tottenham, spurning France to play for the country of his origin. It's one of many global bi-national moves helped made ironically by Algerian Football Federation President Mohamed Raouraoua, who lobbied FIFA to allow bi-national players without a single senior international cap for their first country to switch allegiances to a country of their background.

That has been the constant case for Algeria, as 17 out of 23 players in their last World Cup squad were born in France. The number of French born players on their roster will be one lesser this time around, but their play will make or break the squad's summer once more.

It's not like the squad doesn't have ability up front, with Nabil Gilas and Islam Slimani making headlines in the Liga Zon Sagres with giants Porto and Sporting Lisbon respectively while El Arbi Hillel Soudani continues a very reputable career scoring goals regularly for Croatian giants Dinamo Zagreb.

The defense however, despite players filled with solid credentials and resumes in France, Italy and Spain, has some questions at centerback. Team captain Madjid Bouherra has seen his interest globally decline after leaving Rangers and is currently without a club. His likely centerback partner Liassine Cadamuro is nothing more than a 2nd division player in a prominent league, struggling for time at Liga Adelante side Mallorca. The fullback situation is much better for Algeria, with rightback Aissa Mandi adding to a growing reputation in Ligue 1 with a very good campaign for Remis while Faouzi Ghoulam settled in nicely at Napoli after his January move from his boyhood club Saint Etienne.

Overall it's an Algerian squad that certainly on paper is a few steps better than where they are listed here. The likes of Getafe's Medhi Lacen, Crystal Palace's Adiene Guediora, Udinese's Hassan Yebda, and Grenada's Yacine Brahimi are four options off the bench "minnow teams" would dream of, further indicating Algeria's vastly underrated strength in midfield. But the questions on whether this team will gel under Halilhodzic is firmly justified to be brought up.

Algeria were listless in the last Wold Cup, dogged defensively but lacking offensive threats to really scare England, Slovenia, and the United States. They are a much more talented team this time around, and Belgium, Russia, and South Korea certainly had better be wary. The Fennec Foxes are trying to show that all of CAF's teams, including the projected 5th best side, is to be greatly feared and respected.

Under The Radar, Important Players  

Slimani, not Feghouli, was Algeria's player of the year in 2013 and has impressed in his first campaign for Sporting. "Super Slim" is the nickname he has garnered in the Portuguese capital, as Slimani has had quite the rise from third division football back at home (third division, at home) to a key figure in the renowned Liga Zon Sagres club. Although he isn't a dribbler, Slimani has a presence in the box and is quite good with his head. His Group H rivals better be cognizant of that. 
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