Vahid Halilhodzic

Will Africa's underachievers perform?

Algeria are the 2014 World Cup underdogs

Posted: 21 November 2013 Time: 11:32 am

Algeria weren't the neutrals' choice to claim Africa's final World Cup spot, and the Desert Foxes look likely to head to Brazil as the continent's weakest representatives.

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.

@EddyDove on Twitter

Article by: Ed Dove

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posted: 01:51pm 21/11/2013
What's my business? Please let's talk Super Eagles, Super Eagles and Super Eagles only! Monitor our players and every player with Nigerian blood running in them. Bring out constructive suggestions for the NFF on how to improve.
posted: 02:24pm 21/11/2013
What is my ####### business with algeria, and arabs #### them, we should only consider african countries the ones that they have native black people.
posted: 03:27pm 21/11/2013
For those of you who did not watch the Nigertia vs Italy match yet, here is your chance to really watch it and make up your mind..

Watching it now i believe Egwuekwe was brilliant on the day contrary to what i read on here....he made one mistake against Balotelli, who by the way will do the same thing to even the best defenders in the world... terry and the rest can testify...

Even Francis wasnt bad but kwambe need more work than the others...

Enjoy guys is was truly a good spectacle of football..
posted: 03:28pm 21/11/2013
posted: 03:30pm 21/11/2013
One love Africa whether Arab or what we are all Africans, Africa na one.
posted: 04:03pm 21/11/2013
Sorry to deviate from the topic, but this's a campaign against any Foreign Tech ...


I’ve waited a long time for this, and it would be abnormal if didn’t come up.

I want to call on all Eagles fans to stage protests in all states, including Abuja, Should the NFF, Minister, Government or any sponsor hire a foreigner in any capacity – coach, tech asst, trainer, etc, for the Super Eagles. We’ll use all social network media to communicate the protests when the time comes.

WARNING! Collin Udoh, please communicate this to the authorities – allow Keshi and his crew enjoy the fruit of their labour, if he fails, then pick any other qualified Nigerian – Oliseh, Finidi, Siasia, Amodu, Garba, or even non footballers.
Enough said.
posted: 04:18pm 21/11/2013
both Algeria and Burkina Faso were birds of a feather. they play terrible football. a pity Algeria showed more hunger. i would ve preferred B.Faso
posted: 04:38pm 21/11/2013
Both teams are the same. They would not even make the second round. I watched the last game, they both played terribly. But I would have prefered Burkina Faso becase they will most likely do better than the northerners.
posted: 05:01pm 21/11/2013
All you black racists saying Algeria (and North Africans) are not Africans should be ashamed of yourselves. Your pathetic ignorance and bigotry is showing. Thunder fire your yanshes.
posted: 05:25pm 21/11/2013
@ShangoIsGod: Why insult people on the internet because they do not share your beliefs and sentiments? It is very pathetic. People have their inalienable rights to share their opinion without fear, favor or childish ones. No matter how you call people \"Black racists\", the Arabs or White man will never love or see you as one. The only time you will be appreciated is when you have something to offer.
I believe we should busy ourselves with what concerns us and that is the SUPER EAGLES!
posted: 05:30pm 21/11/2013
Keep it up Ed Dove. I love reading your articles about Nigerian players
posted: 05:42pm 21/11/2013
@Yiomanni. Thanks for that link. I actually watch the game live but its always good for analysis to re-watch it when there is no tension and the head is clear. Thanks again.
posted: 05:59pm 21/11/2013
@NigerDelta4Life. The thunder fire was not meant for you but for those idiots who say North Africans are not Africans. I personally do not have the patience for such bigotry. Racism is racism either its coming from a black, white or Arab. And if some North African had made a racist comment about Nigerians I will not hesitate to send hot thunder fire to his yansh.
Even though I agree we are all here for Super Eagles, that does not mean we should tolerate racism for the sake of getting along. I am a supporter of Keshi but I was one of the 1st forumites to call him out when he made that bigoted statement about the Malawi coach.
Btw I don't really care that much for Algeria just like I don't care for Ghana or Cameroon or Ivory Coast (That is I want Nigeria to be the 1st African country to win the world cup- If any other African country- be it North African or West African- wins it am not sure I will be too happy). However, that does not mean I should be disrespectful to them.

Once again thunder fire the yanshes of racists and bigots.
posted: 07:11pm 21/11/2013
I would have prefered South Africa instead of dem morons... SA players sometimes play classic football expecially against non_ Africans countries. But them fellas have a bad luck against
posted: 10:28pm 21/11/2013
The national team helmsman has
stated that a complete player both
on and off the field would be in his
team to the next year's World Cup
Nigeria coach, Stephen Keshi has
promised to raise a formidable senior
national team ahead of the Brazil 2014
World Cup.
Nigeria qualified for their fifth World Cup
finals last Saturday in Calabar after an
unconvincing 2-0 win over the Walya
Antelopes completed a 4-1 aggregate
victory but Keshi has hinted that the
Eagles would not rest on their oars so as
to make meaningful impact in Brazil.
He has assured that players would be
given invitation on current form and
attitude to previous call ups to the
national team.
The Big Boss also advised his players to
be level headed and humble within and
outside the field of play if they want to
continue to be in his good books at all
Quoting the Eagles' coach: "We just
finished a game and I don't have anything
on paper right now. Maybe in the next
couple of days or weeks I will establish
something better. But my most important
competition now is the CHAN (African
Nations Championships). It is around the
corner in the month of January. Getting
beyond the quarter final stage at the
World Cup finals and other things will
follow one after the other. It is turn by
turn and game by game until we get to
the last game.\"
Speaking on the hope for some players
that have not been considered during the
qualifiers to the World Cup, Keshi told
journalists: \" Starting from the month of
March next year we should be having
some friendly matches. Some of them
that are here we might give them the
opportunity to showcase themselves.
Bringing in players is not about the
football side of it. It is about the
complete players that we need.’’
“You can be an excellent player but you
can still divide the house. I will not invite
a player that might break the unity in the
team when I know that it is the
ingredient we need to have a solid
national team. I don't care if such player
scores 20 goals if he has to cause
confusion in my team. I will take such
player out. We need a team in and out of
the field. We only have 23 players going
to the World Cup, we cannot exceed that
because we are not the only country
going to the World Cup,\" concluded Keshi.
posted: 07:40am 22/11/2013
i think algeria wil do wel inrespective of their ACN flop
posted: 06:07am 26/11/2013
Let's talk logic, the only African team that's in a different level is Ghana, they have experience in the world cup and I predict they will do very well this time, the other four are good but they need to work hard to improve. I think the best go to the World Cup and Algeria is in fact better team than Burkina Faso, they just lost concentration in the first leg where they could have won by 5 goals but wasting easy chances made harder, add to that the imaginary penalty that the referee gave to Burkina Faso. Finally Good luck to all 5 African teams, peace from Algeria
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