Lifestyle & Belief

Algeria World Cup soccer team hopes to continue success


Algeria World Cup Team Statistics: Group C

Status: Knocked out of round 2

World Ranking: 30

World Cup 2010 Results: 0-2-1

Total goals scored: 0

Total goals scored against: 2

Algeria World Cup Schedule: June 13 - Slovenia (0-1 loss); June 18 - England (0-0 draw); June 23 - United States (0-1 loss)

Algeria World Cup Soccer 2010

Algeria has long witnessed an exodus of citizens to Europe, but in recent years it has reached unprecedented levels. While official estimates put the numbers at 10 percent of the population, Algerians insist the number is much higher. The local press has dubbed the flight the “harraga,” a play on the Arabic word for burning and a reference to the ritual burning of identity papers when migrants reach Europe. The incentives to risk illegal crossings and arrest remain huge.

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One recent study indicated that half Algeria’s population between the ages of 16 and 59 is either unemployed or under-employed. While the country is proud of what its soccer team represents and dreams of it shining on the world stage, most of the players ply their trade in Europe and are conspicuous symbols of a very different Algerian dream — that of a financially secure future abroad.

Algeria World Cup History: Played well, once even defeating West Germany, in two previous appearances, but failed both times to escape the first round.

Algeria World Cup Conventional Wisdom: Algeria is another team that has already had a successful World Cup, after beating Egypt in an unprecedented playoff on neutral ground in Sudan. But that may remain the high point of the games. If an African setting benefits the African teams, Algeria may be the exception: the team is more rooted in Europe.

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Algeria World Cup Team Coach: Rabah Saadane

Saadane hopes Algeria can rise to the occasion, as it did against Egypt in qualifying. But he seems equally intent on dampening expectations for Les Fennecs, the Desert Foxes. “We are going to do our best to get to the second round,” he promised, “but it’s going to depend on a lot of factors. The principal objective is not to be ridiculous, to perform honorably and to play football at a high level.” At the World Cup, honor tends to be left to the losers.

 Algeria World Cup Team Strength: A very muscular, physical and experienced defense. Trouble is that could describe every team — England, United States and Slovenia — in Algeria’s relatively weak group. Fans of African football wonder why Ghana or Ivory Coast didn’t luck out and land this draw.

Algeria World Cup Team Weakness: A popgun attack with no major talents on the front line. Algeria can’t play from behind, as it demonstrated when it was trounced 4-0 by Egypt in the semi-finals of the African Nations Cup.

Algeria World Cup Key Player: Antar Yahia

The 28-year-old Yahia, who plays in Germany, will forever be a national hero after scoring the goal against Egypt that sent Les Fennecs to South Africa. He is emblematic of both the strengths and weaknesses of the team. Yahia is a solid cornerstone on a defense that surrendered only eight goals in 12 qualifying games. But he was also the team’s leading scorer, with three goals. At the World Cup level, carrying that double burden may prove too much for a veteran who has had a solid European career, but never at the elite level.