Algeria's newly-designated captain Anther Yahia has issued a rallying cry to his team-mates ahead of their opening 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ match against Slovenia on Sunday.
The Group C encounter at Polokwane could arguably be the Algeria's best chance of securing some points, with England and then the USA waiting in a tough pool. But Yahia, who will forever be a national hero after scoring the play-off winner against Egypt to qualify for the finals, stressed that his team-mates were more than ready to get going.
"We've trained well and we can't wait for kick-off now," he said. "The match is very important and to start the tournament well we must win it, it is a decisive fixture."
Coach Rabah Saadane has had a rough time with his team - a 1-0 victory over the United Arab Emirates at the weekend breaking a losing spell going back to their 4-0 loss to Egypt in the Africa Cup of Nations semi-final in Angola in January. "If the coach is on tip-toes, he has his reasons," acknowledged Yahia. "He knows his team. He also has experience of international tournaments. We haven't had the team line-up and we'll see what he'll put in place."
We've worked well, we've played our warm-up games and from Sunday comes the truth of proper matches.
Yahia, who plays for Bochum in the German Bundesliga, added that the team's major problem had been inconsistency in playing personnel. "Before playing the UAE, we hadn't played with our best team since Sudan," said Yahia, refering to when they beat Egypt in the play-off. "That doesn't help preparations. It's also due to fatigue built up over these last years because of tournaments, summer play-offs and all the travelling.
"The bodies sounded the alarm bell. Despite all that, we still managed to play some matches. Personally, I've played in the last seven or eight and that has allowed me to find my rhythm. We've worked well, we've played our warm-up games and from Sunday comes the truth of proper matches."
Although Yahia will captain his side against FIFA World Cup debutants Slovenia, he said that Lorient midfielder Yazid Mansouri, who will be named as a substitute for the game, would remain the squad's leader.
"It's an honour and a real pleasure but it kind of takes a back seat," said Yahia. "What counts above all is our performance. As for Yazid, he remains our first captain. In the squad, he's very important and very respected."