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Algeria gets surprise visitor
by Paul Kennedy, December 28th, 2009 7AM
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[WORLD CUP 2010 COUNTDOWN] Algeria, which the USA will face in its third and final group game at the World Cup, began training Sunday for the 2010 African Nations Cup. The Desert Foxes had a special guest late Sunday night at their hotel in Castellet, France, when former French star Zinedine Zidane, born to Algerian parents, visited them.

"We're all touched by Zidane's gesture, which was a surprise," said Algeria coach Rabah Saadane.

Saadane is expected to name his 23-player team for the African Nations Cup in Angola on Wednesday.

He has been downplaying expectations about Algeria's chances in Angola.

"This tournament comes at a really bad time for us," he said. "We're tired from World Cup qualifying, so everyone shouldn't expect miracles."

Four players -- Hassan Yebda and Nadir Belhadj of Portsmouth, Hamuer Bouazza of Blackpool and Algerian Player of the Year Madjid Bougherra of Glasgow Rangers -- were given permission to remain with their teams through the busy holiday schedule in Britain.

Abdelmalek Ziaya of ES Setif is the only player in camp who did not take part in World Cup qualifying.

Antar Yahia, whose goal won the playoff game against Egypt, has a leg injury and his status is up in the air. The team doctor at German club Bochum, where he plays, said he would not play, but Yahia said he'd go even if it meant he'd have to play on one leg.

The Fennecs face Malawi, Mali and Angola in group play. They open Jan. 11 against Malawi.

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