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Algeria poses formidable challenge for USA
by Ridge Mahoney, June 22nd, 2010 2:24AM

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TAGS:  men's national team, world cup

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[USA-ALGERIA] Algeria, which held England to a tie and lost to Slovenia 1-0 on a goalkeeping gaffe while down to 10 men, could advance to the round of 16 with a victory over the USA on Wednesday.

When the 2010 World Cup draw came out and placed Algeria with the USA in Group C, the America camp gained even more appreciation for a 3-0 defeat of Egypt last summer at the Confederations Cup.

Bitter rivals Egypt and Algeria play a somewhat similar style, in the view of Coach Bob Bradley and his coaching staff. They also finished dead-even in their qualifying group, which necessitated a one-match playoff in Sudan that was marred by scuffles between fans. Claims by Egypt fans that they were assaulted by celebrating Algerians after a 1-0 victory did not prompt an investigation from FIFA, and relations between the nations have yet to be repaired.

The nations also met in an African Cup of Nations semifinal last January and Egypt gained some measure of revenge with a 4-0 victory on its way to winning the title. Yet Algeria hasn’t been awed in its World Cup matches against Slovenia and England while displaying a blend of polish and toughness the Americans must be wary of.

“Qualifying in Africa, playing teams like Egypt home and away, is not easy,” says U.S. midfielder Michael Bradley. “We watched a good bit of tape on them and have a good feel for their players. A lot of guys are comfortable on the ball, but they’re still an athletic team that’s fit and mobile, so we know it’s going to be a difficult game.”

Algeria has yet to score a goal in the World Cup. It scored 16 goals in 12 qualifying matches with the scoring spread out: Refik Saifi, Antar Yahia and Karim Ziani sharing the lead with three goals apiece. Forward Karim Matmour, a teammate of Bradley at Borussia Moenchengladbach, is often joined by a pair of supporting attackers. Ryad Boudebouz and Ziani were the starters against England. Right-sided midfielder Foued Kadir – one of seven players who work for clubs in France – and Ziani are tricky dribblers adept at slipping balls into good spots.

“When you look at their players, like I said before, they have a lot of guys who are skillful on the ball and like to get the ball in dangerous areas, run by guys or be creative in their own ways to get shots,” said Bradley. “Certainly Karim [Matmour] is good at that, his ability to use his speed to run by defenders and get shots and crosses, I know that well from playing with him every week. So that’s something we need to keep an eye on.

“When you look at their whole team they have a lot of different threats. [Karim] Ziani, who plays at Wolfsburg, is a creative player who can stay wide, he can come inside and find dangerous spots.”

The back line is screened by two central midfielders, Hassan Yebda and Mehdi Lacen. Left back Nadir Belhadj, a confident tackler who is also good on the ball, and Yebda are teammates at English club Portsmouth, which was relegated from the Premier League last month. Their presence and experience helps Algeria at times defend with a line of five players who are adept at clogging up passing lanes and winning loose balls, and it also pulls back its wide players at times to secure the wings. Belhadj’s runs up the left flank will require monitoring.

“As they go forward and get the right numbers in the attack, they have the ability to create one-on-ones and go by you,” says Bob Bradley. “They have found a balance of defending with numbers, and they take their chances well with some of their creative attacking players going forward. It means that our ability to be disciplined and to finish attacks is going to be very important.”

Algerian coach Rabah Saadane dropped goalkeeper Faouzi Chaouchi after his gaffe on a Robert Koren shot gifted Slovenia its goal. His replacement, Rais M'Bolhi, didn’t start out well himself against England. He had to stretch full-length and leap to catch a harmless lob he’d misjudged, and minutes later played a kick off the ground right to Wayne Rooney, only for the English to lose the ball right back.

Yet Bolhi also repelled a close-range shot from Frank Lampard by diving quick and low to his left, and smothered everything else England sent his way without giving up rebounds, which have been costly to several keepers at this World Cup.

By winning, the Americans clinch a spot in the round of 16 no matter what happens in the England-Slovenia match, which will kick off at the same time (10 am ET on Wednesday). They have yet to play a solid 90 minutes at this World Cup and anything less might not be enough for that vital three points.

“It’ll be interesting to see how they approach the game,” said Landon Donovan. “They have no choice but to win, there are scenarios where we could tie and advance so their approach to the game would most likely be an aggressive approach to get a goal and win the game.

“But they’re a team that, as much as we can watch tape and know about their players, as a team they can be unpredictable. On their day they’re a very good team. We have to see what the game presents early, but our clear objective is to go out and try to win the game.”



11 comments
  1. Kerry Ogden
    commented on: June 22, 2010 at 7:17 a.m.
    Realisticly, the US beat Slovenia so Algeria shouldn't be a problem. I can't see the US losing unless they get another BAD REF for their game.

  1. Philippe Fontanelli
    commented on: June 22, 2010 at 9:06 a.m.
    Loosing to Algeria and exiting the WC would only prove that we shouldn't have been there. Do not despair brighter days will come in four years after we send the Bradleys to Siberia.

  1. Ted Westervelt
    commented on: June 22, 2010 at 12:24 p.m.
    Eight years, seven days since last World Cup win. It's going to be a tough game. Please, Bob: Landon at forward.

  1. Ronald Rossi
    commented on: June 22, 2010 at 12:28 p.m.
    @antonio, we can surely send Bob Bradley to Siberia, but I'll keep Michael especially when you compare him to our other midfield options

  1. Karl Ortmertl
    commented on: June 22, 2010 at 12:34 p.m.
    The US should win this match. If we don't, it will, once again, be our defensive blunders that did us in. In any case, if you lose to Algeria in a must game, you don't belong in the knockout round. Despite Michael Bradley's goal against Slovenia, keep him on the defensive end of things. When you've got excellent offensive options like Donovan, Dempsey and Torres, you don't want an uncreative player like Michael Bradley getting a lot of touches.

  1. Ric Fonseca
    commented on: June 22, 2010 at 12:51 p.m.
    Really now, they still play football in Siberia? O' course they do! But me thinks that Banal Bob will still play that gawd-awful defensive style and won't even call up Torres, Herculez, Buddle,and will blame the ref, who will have been exiled from wam Mali to frigid Siberia to all the game.... Maybe they'll mistake Banal Michael for the equally bald coach, you know, like father like son? But I do hope our gruinguitos win and advance so how about it Men In Blue, shoot from distance, follow up on your shots and don't stand by for a quick photo-op. Solution: shoot, shoot, shoot, shoot, and yes, follow-up. Tighten up on defense, don't make stupid-high schoolish defensive lapses. SI SE PUEDE VAMOS USA!!!

  1. Philippe Fontanelli
    commented on: June 22, 2010 at 3:28 p.m.
    Guys who wants Bradley Junior, Yes Bradley scored a goal thanks to Altidore. But he was in co-culprit if not "the" in both that we have received. and that was even reiterated by Ridge a MB fan. Strange coincidence that Slovakia's the coach's son error was the goal that they have received I guess nepotism works at other teams. But he was substituted. There is a saying in Italian "Ci sai fare con le parole"

  1. David Mozeshtam
    commented on: June 22, 2010 at 5:09 p.m.
    Frankly, I'm more afraid of another incompetent referee and FIFA's desire to see an African team advance than of Algeria. I can see a US player getting sent off for no reason after an Algerian player goes down as if hit by a missile a'la the Ivorian player who got Kaka sent off. Or a bogus offside call. The possibilities are endless.

  1. David Mozeshtam
    commented on: June 22, 2010 at 5:17 p.m.
    And as far as Siberia goes... Korean Kim Nam Il currently plays for Tomsk in the Russian Premier League. Tomsk is in Siberia.

  1. Bill Richter
    commented on: June 23, 2010 at 1:51 a.m.
    @Ted No, Landon at midfield. He's not big enough to muscle up against the back line of Algeria, but he is fast enough to break through with the ball and leave them looking like they are standing still even if they are running full out. When the MLS All-Star game was played in San Jose, Landon easily beat all comers in the sprinting competitions, whether he had the ball or not. It wasn't even close... and he's still that fast. :-)

  1. Bill Richter
    commented on: June 24, 2010 at 1:01 a.m.
    Hate to say I told you so, but... Landon in midfield = Second round. USA! USA! USA!


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