Algeria Camp Focus - Chaouchi joins Green in goalkeeping nightmare
Prior to the Desert Foxes opening fixture against Slovenia, it was clear that Coach Rabah Saadane had drilled his squad well in preparation for potentially the biggest match in his player’s careers. There was a steely determination in the Algerian camp that this one fixture could almost be described as the “be all and end all” of their campaign. Points against the United States and England would be very difficult to come by, and so the opening contest represented their best opportunity to impress on the world’s stage. What followed was a below par performance, littered with indiscipline and one very costly mistake.
Most of the discussion over the weekend has centred on Robert Green’s error for England, but the West Ham stopper now finds himself in good company, following Faouzi Chaouchi’s inability to keep out Robert Koren’s weak strike. The Algerian keeper tried to take the ball into his chest when a simple parry to the side would surely have been the better and indeed safer option. As Koren’s shot bounced, Chaouchi was deceived, conceding the game’s only goal. However, we cannot attribute the Algerian loss exclusively to their shortcomings in the defensive half. In a contest that had been labelled a ‘must win’ by the whole squad, surely Saadane would have preached the importance of discipline in his players? If he had it would appear that the message was lost on some, none more so than on second half substitute Abdelkader Ghezzal. A booking for shirt pulling shortly after his introduction was followed by a foolish handball, ensuring an early bath for the Siena forward. Both of Ghezzal’s bookings were avoidable to say the least and whilst Sadaane has publicly expressed his pleasure at the manner in which his players conducted themselves, eyebrows will surely be raised at the forward’s all too brief an introduction to the World Cup.
The question now is how Saadane reacts to events in Polokwane. The Coach, who had only recently spoken of his pride of being the sole African Head Coach at the World Cup finals, faces the same dilemma as his England counterpart, Fabio Capello, in preparation for when the two sides meet in Cape Town on Friday. Chaouchi’s mistake was a disaster but should he be replaced? Waiting in the wings are the experienced Lounes Gaouaoui, one of only a handful of the Algerian squad to play his club football in his homeland, and the younger option of Raïs M’Bolhi of Slavia Sofia. With M’Bolhi only securing his first cap in the recent warm-up fixture against the Republic of Ireland, Gaouaoui would seem the obvious choice. Chaouchi won his place between the sticks prior to the World Cup qualifying play-off against Egypt, after Gaouaoui fell ill. He has maintained that he is ready to return to the starting line-up and perhaps Friday’s clash with England will see him given his chance.
There is of course the possibility that Saadane will keep the faith with Chaouchi for Friday night’s match. Following a disappointing showing in Polokwane, the Coach bemoaned his side’s failure to capitalise on a far from impressive Slovenian performance but stopped short of blaming his goalkeeper for the result, instead joining the ever-growing list of those unhappy with the ball itself. Unity in the face of defeat is perhaps the message here from the top. The determination and keen grasp on reality still comes through in Saadane’s words however, stating that the World Cup is for his side somewhat of a learning experience, although he was to express his excitement for the England match as the Desert Foxes’ next big test.
The issue of how to approach Friday night’s match will require much thought for Saadane and his staff, although it has been suggested that there are not likely to be any changes to the starting line-up, (perhaps Chaouchi really will be spared the chop). Tactically speaking, it is highly unlikely that Algeria will play in the same manner as they did against Slovenia. A more defensive approach will be the order of the day against a side they have marked as the best in Group C. Indeed Capello’s side will no doubt be looking to add some goals to their game following a positive display against the United States, and so we could be in for an excellent display of attractive, attack-minded football. Only time will tell how ready the Desert Foxes are for this.