However, despite their recent international failings and their struggles in this qualification programme, there are signs that Vahid Halilhodzic has the basis of a strong side.
Tuesday night's qualifier against Burkina Faso was a battle between the 2013 Cup of Nations underachievers and the tournament's great overachievers.
Before Tuesday night, the Stallions of Burkina Faso were on course to cap off an incredible year with an unprecedented qualification for the international high table – it would have been the perfect end to a thoroughly unexpected 12 months.
Before 2013, Burkina had only once reached the final four of the AFCON. In 1998, on home soil, the West Africans finished fourth, but that performance was outshone by their run to the final in South Africa earlier this year.
Belgian coach Paul Put had constructed a side who were defensively proficient, but with a effective creative hub in Charles Kabore, they possessed both pace and power in attack and took the tournament by storm.
Escaping from a group containing reigning-champions Zambia and eventual-champions Nigeria, the Stallions also eliminated Ghana and Togo en route to the final.
Had they qualified for Brazil, they, along with Bosnia, would have been the only two debutants at next summer's event.
The Stallions would have been a fine addition to next summer's event; occasionally naïve, perhaps, as they demonstrated in the first leg against Algeria, but they would have brought some colourful characters, passionate supporters and no little drama.
Can the same truly be said about Algeria?
Since qualifying for the last World Cup, the North Africans have endured three fairly diabolical years. They failed to make it to the Cup of Nations in 2012 and then flopped badly at their 15th appearance at the tournament at the beginning of this year.
Admittedly, their Group draw of Cote d'Ivoire, Togo and Maghrebi rivals Tunisia was far from appealing, but Algeria looked toothless and horribly unimaginative.
They enjoyed decent possession during their three group stage clashes, but only seemed to spark in the final clash, the dead rubber against the Cote d'Ivoire.
It was a point lamented by Bosnian coach Vahid Halilhodzic following Algeria's elimination after being defeated 2-0 by Togo; despite dominating both of their opening contests, the Desert Foxes were already denied progress with no points and no goals.
Against the Elephants, however, we were able to get a better look at just what the side were capable of. It was a performance that made sense of Rafik Saifi's claim that he had never before seen an Algerian side that dominated games so convincingly.
Since January, Halilhodzic has begun to address the areas of his side that needed attention.
Experienced skipper Madjid Bougherra was strangely left out for the Cup of Nations – his tenacity, defensive organisation and fine tackling were missed and his return has coincided with an upturn in fortunes. While he was fortunate to remain on the pitch against Burkina Faso following a horrible early lunge, Bougherra generally impressed with his marshalling of the backline.
Whilst he didn't know much about it, it was ultimately Bougherra that scored the goal that sent Algeria through to the World Cup – Bakary Kone's attempted clearance cannoned off the former Rangers defender's head and into the net … a dreadful stroke of misfortune for the visitors.
Bougherra does not solve all of their problems, however, and the defence remains an aspect of the side that requires attention. They struggled to contain the Stallions in the tie's first leg, but improved once Faouzi Ghoulam had replaced Essaid Belkalem.
Rafik Djebbour, who has been so consistently prolific in the Greek leagues with AEK Athens and Olympiakos was also absent at the Cup of Nations. It is fair to argue that he hasn't replicated his form at club level for the national side, but his experience and composure in front of goal could have been invaluable in South Africa.
He has now found his way back onto the Algerian bench and will be keen to play an important role in Brazil, next summer.
With these two great Cup of Nations failings looking to be resolved, I believe that Halilhodzic's key question now is how to make the most out of Valencia's Sofiane Feghouli over the next six months. The playmaker is Algeria's outstanding individual, but he has too often struggled to impose himself upon contests and provide a cutting edge.
In principle, Algeria should be able to set-up in order to make the most of his creative nous. The likes of Medhi Lacen, Saphir Taider and Adlene Guedioura provide a strong, determined, hard-working midfield base who will strive endlessly to protect the back four, to regain possession and to feed the more creative players ahead of them.
If these three can preserve their engines for the World Cup, then Halilhodzic can begin to construct the basis for his team's approach.
I don't think we should be expecting anything exceptional from Algeria just yet, but this, their second consecutive World Cup qualification, the first time they have returned to the top table since the mid-eighties, represents progress.
The presence of a number of young players in the squad, the 21-year-olds of Internazionale pair Taider and Ishak Belfodil, of defender Faouzi Ghoulam, and of 23-year-olds Feghouli and Yacine Brahimi ought to encourage Algerian fans.
Even if Halilhodzic can't lift his team out of the group stage in Brazil, the Desert Foxes are unlikely to endure years as barren as the three that have gone before.