With games against England and USA to come for these two teams in Group C, Algeria and Slovenia know that points dropped against each other on Sunday in Polokwane will be severely damaging to their chances of advancing to the second round. Yet with both teams short of recent FIFA World Cup™ experience, their match-up at the Peter Mokaba Stadium may prove a tentative affair. The North Africans have not appeared on the world stage since Mexico 1986, while Slovenia lost all three of their matches at Korea/Japan 2002. As surprise qualifiers, each will have something to prove heading into what could be a physically rugged contest.
Although the two teams have never met, Slovenia would seem to have an edge on paper. Algeria, who qualified at the expense of arch-rivals Egypt, have had a difficult build-up, losing friendly matches to European sides Serbia and the Republic of Ireland – 3-0 both times. Coach Rabah Saadane has also indicated that captain Yazid Mansouri is not fit enough to start against the Slovenians, which has caused a fair amount of controversy at their camp in the south of the country. Experienced Bochum defender Anther Yahia is due to wear the armband instead.
On the other hand , Slovenia dealt easily with Qatar and New Zealand in pre-finals friendlies, and their mood has been buoyant since arriving in South Africa. Based in Johannesburg, the eastern Europeans qualified for the finals by finishing second behind Slovakia in a difficult group and then beating heavy favourites Russia in a two-legged play-off. That experience should make Matjaz Kek’s men confident of their chances of getting past the Desert Foxes ahead of their next match against the US.
Algeria are used to playing a patient game, lulling their opponents into a false sense of security while waiting for their openings. So much will depend on the solidity of their defence, which is marshalled by Bougherra. However, the Rangers player has had some fitness concerns ahead of the finals, so it remains to be seen what shape he will be in. One of the men testing Bougherra and his defensive partners will be Dedic, who brings speed and skill to Slovenia's attack. He also has a reputation for scoring big goals, including the one against Russia that sent his team to South Africa.
0 - The number of times these teams have faced each other. While Slovenia warmed up for the contest with an easy win against Qatar in March, they will have bad memories of facing African teams at the FIFA World Cup as they lost to South Africa 1-0 in Daegu in 2002.
What they say
"Our goal is clear, we need to have honour with our behaviour on and off the pitch, we need to represent Algerian football, Maghreb football, African football and also Arab football. We have nothing to lose, we can only win. We will give everything during every game and at the end of the group stage we will see what our level is and what we have learnt," Rabah Saadane, Algeria coach.
"We are all concentrating on the work in hand, and to be as prepared as possible for the following matches, so we play even better than we did against Russia. Because I think that we are able to play even better, and, as I said before, that there is more to come from us," Zlatko Dedic, Slovenia striker.