Algeria will have some cause for regret at the end of their 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ campaign. Getting off to the worst of starts when they lost 1-0 to the Slovenians, Les Fennecs then held England to a goalless draw before losing to a stoppage-time strike in their final outing against USA. Last in their section, the sole Arab representatives in the competition are reluctantly taking their leave of the competition.

As those scorelines suggest, the biggest problem faced by Rabah Saadane’s side was in the scoring department. The Algerians are one of only two teams in the competition that have failed to score in the first phase so far, although Group H outfit Honduras still have one game remaining.

Their dearth of goals aside, the north Africans improved performance-wise as the tournament went on, giving cause for future optimism. After managing only two shots on target against Slovenia and only one against England in a brave display, Algeria stepped up the pace in that frenetic final match against the Americans, adopting a more attacking approach in that must-win game and firing in four shots on goal as a result.

The stalemate with the English was the high point of their all-too short stay in the Rainbow Nation, their gritty showing made all the more notable by the calibre of the opposition, one of the pre-tournament favourites. “We were happy with the result,” said striker Ryad Boudebouz, a member of the starting line-up against Fabio Capello’s side. “We were determined to play well and to show them we are a team that deserves respect and is not a pushover.”

England midfielder Gareth Barry vouched for that when he spoke to FIFA after last Friday’s match in Cape Town: “Fair play to them, they played a really good game and deserved a point.”

Pondering his side’s early exit, coach Saadane identified the defeat to Slovenia as being decisive: “I kept saying before the World Cup started that the first match would be the most important and that an awful lot would hinge on it. Unfortunately we didn’t have any luck. We played a good game against the Slovenians and we didn’t deserve to lose.”

Despite that defeat and their subsequent elimination, the Desert Foxes’ boss was satisfied with the overall effort put in and believes his squad will be all the stronger for their South African adventure. “This is a young side that doesn’t yet have the necessary experience,” he said.

“For a lot of players this was only their first call-up but we have learned a lot and the boys have had a wonderful experience here. I am convinced this side has a bright future in front of it and it is going to achieve some big things in the years to come.”