INJURIES. The availability of starters Antar Yahia, Mourad Meghni and Rafik Saifi for the opener was uncertain. All three are coming off injuries.
Yahia, whose goal won the playoff game against Egypt, has a leg injury and consulted with a doctor in Zurich before joining the team. The team doctor at German club Bochum, where he plays, had said he would not play.
TENSION.Mohamed Raouraoua, president of the Algerian soccer federation (FAF), met with players on Monday in Castelet, where the Desert Foxes have been training.
The FAF issued a statement the next day denouncing press reports that Coach Rabah Saadane was about to resign because of strained relations between him and his players.
"There is no foundation to these allegations and we wonder what is the real goal of this disinformation," the FAF said. "We are anxious to reassure the public that an excellent mood reigns in the squad. No dissension exists between the coach and the players."
On Wednesday, the FAF announced that it had reached an agreement with the players over bonuses for the Africa Cup of Nations: $150,000 a player for winning the tournament.
For weeks, however, Saadane has been trying to downplay expectations.
"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."
POMPEY MESS. To add to the tension was the uncertain status of two stars, who play for English club Portsmouth.
Three times this season Nadir Belhadjand Hassan Yebda and their Pompey teammates have not been paid on time, and they were still waiting for their December paychecks.
French club Lens is demanding that Belhadj and Ivorian Aruna Dindane be sold because Portsmouth has not paid it for their transfers. Yebda is on loan from Portuguese club and been mentioned as a target of Arsenal.
On Wednesday, Abdelmalek Ziaya, the only player in camp who did not take part in World Cup qualifying, completed his transfer from ES Setif to Saudi club Al-Ittihad for a fee of $2 million.
Goalkeepers:Lounes Gaouaoui (ASO Chlef), Faouzi Chaouchi (ES Setif), Mohammed Zemmamouche (USM Alger)
Defenders: Slimane Raho (ES Setif), Anthar Yahia (Bochum, Germany), Nadir Belhadj (Portsmouth, England), Madjid Bougherra (Glasgow Rangers), Samir Zaoui (ASO Chlef), Rafik Halliche (Nacional de Madeira, Portugal), Reda Babouche (MC Algiers)
Midfielders: Yazid Mansouri (Lorient, France), Karim Ziani (Wolfsburg, Germany), Yacine Bezzaz (Strasbourg, France), Karim Matmour (Borussia M'Gladbach, Germany), Khaled Lemmouchia (ES Setif), Hameur Bouazza (Blackpool, England), Mourad Meghni (Lazio, Italy), Hassan Yebda (Portsmouth, England), Djamel Abdoun (Nantes, France)
Forwards:Rafik Saifi (Al-Khor), Abelkader Ghezzal (Siena, Italy), Abelmalak Ziaya (Al-Ittihad, Saudi Arabia)