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The digital soccer war [VIDEO]
by Paul Kennedy, November 19th, 2009 7AM

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[WORLD CUP 2010 QUALIFYING] Antar Yahia began his international career with France. Now he's going to the 2010 World Cup with Algeria after scoring the only goal in a 1-0 win over Egypt, a spectacular volley that decided one of the most intensely followed qualifiers ever. The tensions were stoked in large part by the proliferation of online postings reporting real or imagined violence by fans on both sides before and after Saturday's game in Cairo.

Algeria-Egypt Highlights:


The playoff game was played in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum, where Algerian and Egyptian fans came by the planeload.  There were 15,000 police and security officers on hand -- one for every two fans.

The heavy security was ordered after trouble broke out when the Algerian team arrived in Cairo for Saturday's deciding group game and was attacked by Egyptian youths.

After the Pharaohs scored a last-second goal to win 2-0 and force a playoff, Algerian fans smashed shop windows, hurled stones at police and set fire to several boats moored in the French city of Marseilles. Fans attacked Egyptian political and business interests in Algeria after the game.

The tension in the Algerian-Egyptian rivalry, one of the oldest soccer rivalries in Africa, was stoked by postings on You Tube and Facebook.

Algerian supporters took cell phone videos of the injured Algerian players upon their arrival at their hotel in Cairo and posted them on You Tube.

One Algerian newspaper posted a You Tube video in which a fan claimed his brother had been killed by Egyptian fans.

On the field, Algeria's victory is revenge for a 1-0 loss to Egypt in a game that sent the Pharaohs to the 1990 World Cup.

Algeria first went to the World Cup in 1982 when it upset West Germany and was ultimately ousted when the Germans beat neighboring Austrians 1-0 -- a result that sent both teams through to the second group stage at Algeria's expense.

The current Algerian team is a beneficiary of FIFA's more liberal rules it introduced regarding the change of allegiance of national team players.

The Fennecs started eight French-born players, including Mourad Meghni and Hassan Yebda, who won the 2001 Under-17 World Cup with France.

Wednesday's victory in Khartoum touched off wild celebrations in Algerian communities across France. Indeed, Algeria's qualification generated much greater enthusiasm in France than did that of the Bleus, the French national team, which struggled to qualify.



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