The crucial Group C game between USA and Algeria will have the majority of football fans in North Africa and the Middle East glued to their television screens, in the hope that Les Fennecs, the sole Arab nation represented at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, can upset the odds and qualify for the Round of 16.
Arab supporters will certainly wish to avoid the same disappointment they experienced at the FIFA Confederations Cup last year, when African champions Egypt were knocked out by the Americans in the last game of the group stage. Following that victory, USA surprised many by going on to reach the final of the event, where they lost 3-2 to Brazil.
Algeria go into their third and final group match buoyed by the unexpected point taken against England, a result which kept the north Africans in the hunt following their opening defeat by Slovenia. Coach Rabah Saadane’s principal concern remains his side’s fragile finishing ability. The only team in the group to have not yet found the net, statistical analysis of Algeria’s first two matches reveals a sum total of three shots on target, clearly inadequate at this level.
USA, on the other hand, have the capacity to come forward in numbers, with the dangerous Jozy Altidore ably supported from midfield by the likes of Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan. This attacking mindset has helped them to twice come from behind to snatch draws in the tournament, first against England, then versus Slovenia. They currently occupy second place in this tightest of pools, with two points to show for their efforts. Compared to their upcoming opponents, USA have managed to hit the target ten times so far.
Both teams know that they will need to throw caution to the wind to secure a first win. A victory for Bob Bradley’s men would automatically see them through to the Round of 16, while the Desert Foxes not only need to collect three points, but must also hope for an English defeat in order to qualify. In other words, it is win or bust for Algeria.
Players to watch
Jozy Altidore versus Rais M’Bolhi
Whatever happens against the Stars and Stripes, Saadane will at least be able to take satisfaction from having unearthed a capable goalkeeper at this FIFA World Cup. Rais M’Bolhi, brought in ahead of Algeria’s second match for his debut in the tournament, was impressive against England, defending his line in commanding fashion.
The young keeper is sure to be kept busy by a sprightly USA attack led by Altidore. Desperate to open his account at South Africa 2010, the American appears on the verge of rediscovering the excellent form he demonstrated at last year’s FIFA Confederations Cup, during which he scored the opening goal of his country’s surprise victory over European champions Spain.
0 - The number of goals scored by Algeria thus far in the competition.
What they said
“The Algerians have put a good team together. Their displays at the African Nations Cup were consistently strong. They haven’t come up with the same kind of results here, but they still have a chance to progress. The fact that they qualified from the African Zone at the expense of sides like Egypt shows that they are not to be taken lightly. We’ve watched videos of their games and we know a lot more about their players now. They’re very fit and possess great tactical awareness. That’s why we’re expecting a difficult match,” Michael Bradley, USA midfielder.
“It’s going to be a tricky match, in my opinion. The Americans were one of the teams fancied to qualify from this group. We simply don’t have a choice; a win is imperative. I can see it being a very tough game for both sides,” Rabah Saadane, Algeria coach.
Voice of the fans
“We’re hoping for a win, as even the top teams lose the odd game. What’s important is that we get to see some great football,” FIFA.com user Kao021 (Algeria).
Will Les Fennecs be able to hit the back of the net for the first time at this FIFA World Cup against USA, and perhaps secure three points in the process? Is yet another spectacular comeback on the cards from Donovan and Co?