Desert Foxes could produce surprise

[ALGERIA] Algeria was the last African team to qualify for the 2010 World Cup, needing a hotly contested playoff game to defeat reigning African champion Egypt.

The Desert Foxes will be viewed as the weakest of the five African teams that went through qualifying, but England coach Fabio Capello, for one, says they could surprise. Algeria did just that in 1982, producing one of the biggest upsets in the history of the World Cup.

Algeria is dominated by French-bred players, several of whom started their international careers with France at the youth level.

Antar Yahia, who began his international career with France, scored the only goal in the 1-0 playoff 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 the 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.

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.

ALGERIA ROSTER:
Goalkeepers
Nassim Ouserir (CR Belouizdad)
Lounes Gaouaoui (ASO Chlef)

Defenders
Madjid Bougherra (Rangers)
Anther Yahia (Bochum)
Rafik Halliche (Nacional Madeira)
Nadir Belhadj Nadir (Portsmouth)
Samir Zaoui (ASO Chlef)
Slimane Raho (ES Setif)
Reda Baabouche (MC Algiers)

Midfielders
Yazid Mansouri (Lorient)
Hassen Yebda (Portsmouth)
Karim Matmour (Borussia M'Gladbach)
Yassine Bezzaz Yassine (Strasbourg)
Karim Ziani (Wolfsburg)
Mourad Meghni (Lazio)
Hamer Bouazza (Blackpool)

Forwards
Rafik Saifi (Al Khor)
Kamel Ghilas (Hull City)
Rafik Djebbour (AEK Athens)
Abdelkader Mohamed Ghezzal (Siena)

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