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Benzema and Feghouli share common roots
by Paul Kennedy, June 29th, 2014 9:52PM

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TAGS:  france, world cup 2014

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[WORLD CUP: Spotlight] More players on the rosters of the 32 teams at the World Cup were born in France than in any other country. The 46 players are the equivalent of two full teams. Many of them are the children of immigrants. Two of them, both born to Algerian parents, will play key roles on Monday: Karim Benzema for France against Nigeria and Sofiane Feghouli for Algeria in its first match against Germany since it produced one of the biggest upsets in World Cup history in 1982.

France-Nigeria

June 30 in Brasilia
Referee: Mark Geiger (USA).
ESPN, Univision/UDN noon ET

STORYLINE. Four years ago, France was in turmoil and exited quickly. This time, Coach Didier Deschamps has emphasized team unity and it paid off with two big wins and a tie that earned the Bleus the Group E title and a date with Nigeria.

And the Super Eagles? Last year, Nigeria almost missed the start of the Confederations Cup because players refused to fly to Brazil until a dispute of over bonuses was resolved. On Friday, a day after players boycotted training, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan had to be called upon to assure players they'd get their bonuses from the World Cup.

PLAYER TO WATCH. With three goals and two assists and another goal he set up credited as an own goal to Honduran keeper Noel Valladares, Karim Benzema is the toast of French soccer. But it wasn't always that way.

He often heard jeers from French fans during a 15-game goal-scoring drought that ended in October 2013. But Deschamps says he has always valued his center forward for more than his goalscoring.

"Benzema has extraordinary movement, which underpins the team's play," Deschamps said. "We have always focused on his contribution apart from his goals, which is something that doesn't happen elsewhere."

Benzema was born in Lyons to Algerian parents and joined Lyon at the age of 16. Eight days before his 17th birthday, he made his first-team debut. He's still only 26 but already played 10 pro seasons, the first five with Lyon and the last five with Real Madrid.



Germany-Algeria

June 30 in Porto Alegre
Referee: Sandro Ricci (Brazil).
ESPN, Univision/UDN 4 p.m. ET

STORYLINE. Algeria's greatest moment at the World Cup came in the first game it ever played. It beat West Germany, 2-1, to open Espana '82, but it turned out to be a hollow victory as the Fennecs split their next two games and went out on goal difference after the Germans beat Austria in a match dubbed the "Disgrace of Gijon" or "Dijon Non-Aggression Pact." West Germany scored early, and both teams spent the rest of the game knocking the ball around, knowing that the 1-0 result would be enough to send both teams through to the next stage at Algeria's expense.

The story of the 1982 West Germany-Austria match came up often before Thursday's USA-Germany match as the USA -- with its German coach and five German-Americans -- and Germany would have both advanced with a tie, no matter what happened in the Ghana-Portugal match. The 1982 West Germany-Austria match comes up again from a different angle.

Do the Algerians want revenge? “We haven’t forgotten,” said Vahid Halilhodzic, Algeria's Bosnian coach. “We talk all the time about this match in 1982. History repeats itself 32 years later.” Halilhodzic remembers the 1982 World Cup because he was a reserve for Yugoslavia at the tournament. But none of his players were even born when the 1982 World Cup was held and only two Germans on Joachim Loew's team were alive.

"I find it irritating when I read that this is a match about vengeance," Loew says. "Most of the players on my team weren't even born. Why should Algeria want to punish us? It's incomprehensible for me. Our players don't know anything about that team back then.



PLAYER TO WATCH. Like Benzema, Sofiane Feghouli was born in France to Algerian parents and was a teenager when he made his pro debut. He was only 19 when he moved to Spanish club Valencia but wasn't a part of the Algerian team the USA faced in 2010 because he wasn't eligible to play for the Fennecs.

Feghouli, now 24, played in the French youth national team system until 2011 when he was approached about switching allegiances to Algeria. And he isn't alone. Of the 16 French-born Fennecs at the World Cup, eight represented France at the youth level.


1 comment
  1. Gus Keri
    commented on: June 29, 2014 at 10:27 p.m.
    Leow should know better. Nobody after him or the German team to be punished for what happened in 1982. It's just a tactic for the underdog to get fired up and play hard to match up with the top dog.


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