Algerian question marks remain

The year 2010 is one of reappearance for Algeria. The Desert Foxes will return to the FIFA World Cup™ for the first time since 1986, and they recently rejoined the CAF Africa Cup of Nations field after a six-year hiatus and managed their best finish at the competition – fourth place – since 1990, when they emerged triumphant on home soil.

Despite reaching the Angola 2010 semi-finals, however, captain Yazid Mansouri was left disappointed following defeats by Egypt and then Nigeria thereafter. “We did not do as well as we would have wanted to,” he rued.

“We will move ahead and learn from the mistakes we made at this tournament. We have to work very hard to get ready for the World Cup, especially in midfield and attack. The Nations Cup has afforded us a chance to know where we have to improve."

The results
Algeria opened Group A with a shock 3-0 loss to Malawi, before showing discipline to beat Mali 1-0 and draw 0-0 with hosts Angola. In the knockout rounds, they twice came from behind to beat Côte d'Ivoire 3-2 before falling apart in a 4-0 defeat by Egypt in the semi-finals. Three players were sent off against their fierce North African rivals and, therefore, suspended for the match for third place against Nigeria, who emerged 1-0 winners.

The good
After getting off to a very slow start against Malawi, Algeria dug deep to turn things around and advance from Group A. Central to their victory over Mali was a defensive resolve that showed that, when the Desert Foxes get their noses in front, they are a difficult team to beat. They are adept at holding possession, breaking up forays into their own half and then counter-attacking with surprising speed and precision. The focal point of the Algerian attack is the industrious Abdelkader Ghezzal, while Portsmouth’s Nadir Belhadj was a consistent threat with his pace down the left. Fawzi Chaouchi also proved himself among Africa's finest goalkeepers, especially against the vaunted Malian frontline.

We did not do as well as we would have wanted to. We will learn from the mistakes we made at this tournament. We have to work very hard to get ready for the World Cup.
Yazid Mansouri, Algeria captain

Perhaps lacking some pedigree at the highest level, Algeria were a bit nervy to start against a favoured Côte d'Ivoire side. Experienced coach Rabah Saadane had talked about using the Cup of Nations to prepare for big matches at South Africa 2010, and their comeback victory in the quarter-finals will have left him in optimistic mood.

The bad
Algeria conceded ten goals in their six matches, while scoring just four - and three of those came in one match. They were unusually shaky against Malawi and were, in truth, outplayed by a team appearing in just their second-ever Cup of Nations. Against Egypt, the team they beat in the play-off to reach South Africa, the Desert Foxes held their own for half an hour until the first red card arrived. In the second half against the eventual champions, they completely lost all discipline and composure, which will have given Saadane serious cause for concern.

Up next
The Algerians will play a friendly against Serbia in Algiers in March, before heading to South Africa 2010, where they will meet Slovenia, England and USA - all for the first time in their history.