Algeria Camp Focus – Desert Foxes’ spirit unblemished despite Chaouchi blunder

Clearly Algeria’s opening contest against Slovenia did not pan out quite how the Desert Foxes would have hoped. Although fully aware of the magnitude of the task ahead of them in order to progress into the next round, the tag of a must win contest in their opener perhaps put too much pressure on Rabah Saadane’s players. A lack of organisation coupled with a performance lacking the required discipline has made the North African nation’s uphill battle to progress that much tougher. It is fair to say that there are very few outside of the Algerian camp who realistically expect them to make the second round.

In spite of their unenviable position, once again we are hearing nothing but positivity and determination from the squad and rightly so. Glasgow Rangers defender Madjid Bougherra has astutely noted that there is no pressure on the squad for Friday’s match in Cape Town, pointing to the fact that England are expected to stroll through the group relatively untroubled, but after a disappointing draw against the United States , it is Fabio Capello’s men who will feel the weight of expectation on their shoulders. Coach Saadane has spoken of the World Cup being a learning experience for his side. They are not in South Africa for the glory but as an apprenticeship of sorts, to build for the future and indeed develop as a football entity. Friday’s fixture is in essence just another chance to accumulate some points and test themselves against a top side. It is for England to go and win the match, not Algeria, who Bougherra claims have nothing to lose.

The defender’s words have resonated with his team mates, who will look not just to salvage some battered pride but to really shock the football world in Cape Town. Captain Anther Yahia has suggested that a change of tactics to a more attacking style of play will suit his side, and that they could make life very uncomfortable for the English. A switch in tactics does seem likely, with Saadane also now suggesting that there might be some alterations to the starting XI, having previously hinted that there would be no need to do so. The Algerian camp may see the finals as more of a learning exercise as a relatively fledgling football nation, but the message is that they are not in South Africa to just make up the numbers and that they are taking this match very seriously, sentiments echoed by President of the Algerian Football Federation, Mohamed Raouraoua.

What is interesting with the Desert Foxes is that the issue of the goalkeeper error appears to have been far more convincingly put to bed than that of their opponents on Friday. Whilst Capello refuses to be drawn on whether Robert Green will retain his place between the sticks in Cape Town, Saadane has moved to defend his gloves man. Faouzi Chaouchi’s blunder resulted in the only goal in Algeria’s opening defeat, but Saadane lent his support to his keeper. It would seem that although many would argue the English have more to be positive about in the build-up to Friday, it is in fact Algeria who are putting on the more united front. Indeed, whilst many see Robert Koren’s decisive goal as the result of Chaouchi’s mistake, the Algerian camp is putting the blame elsewhere. Chaouchi’s knee injury may force a change, however.

In the eyes of the squad, Slovenia’s freak goal was not the fault of their stopper and nor because of the ball itself which seems to be coming in for endless criticism from all corners. In this instance, it is the pitch that cost Saadane’s men a point. The stadium in Polokwane features a playing surface constructed from a mixture of grass and synthetic fibres, not uncommon but certainly not the standard foundations of a football pitch. It was this unusual composition which resulted in the awkward bounce which saw Chaouchi deceived. It will be interesting to see how many others complain about the pitch at the Peter Mokaba Stadium as the tournament progresses.

So as Algeria prepare for a make or break fixture on Friday, the mood in the camp remains as determined and as positive as ever. The mistakes and short-comings of Sunday appear to have been put to bed, and once again there seems to be nothing but unity. Expect a couple of changes to the starting line up in Cape Town, but do not be surprised to see Chaouchi remain in goal.

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