Pumped-up Algerians are ready to do battle
Friday 18 June 2010
The Algeria team have prepared for tonight's match with England by watching The Battle of Algiers, Gillo Pontecorvo's war film based on the national uprising against French colonial rule in Algeria; proof, if it were needed, that Rabah Saadane loves drawing on raw emotion, when the football is lacking.
Saadane is an emotional fellow and there will be no calculated "parking the bus" like the Koreans and the Swiss have done in the past week, he assured us last night. "We will play differently because we have different human components and we play accordingly to what our possibilities are," he said. "You can't build a team on theory but on the characteristics of the players involved."
Even Fabio Capello, whose only observation on the opposition was they have some ability on the counter attack, may have shuddered to know that Saadane has recreated a mental image in his players' minds this week of the extraordinary night they won their play-off against old foes Egypt in Khartoum to qualify for the World Cup, braving missiles thrown at the team coach along the way.
There was plenty of deference from Saadane for "Mr Capello" as he always calls him, but Foued Kadir, the midfielder, has stoked the fires by describing England as "overhyped." Kadir, who is unlikely to start here, said England "isn't necessarily this great team that it's been endlessly billed as before the World Cup. It is like any other. They're not perfect, they have their shortcomings."
Ryad Boudebouz, the striker, went further. "England are the team under pressure," he said. "They are the ones who claimed that they came to win the World Cup." Kadir said Algeria have identified the England defence as a weak spot and there will be pot-shots at Robert Green.
Algeria have worries of their own about the goalkeeper's position, with Faouzi Chaouchi, whose fumble gifted Slovenia the only win in group C in Polokwane last Saturday, having trained with his left knee heavily strapped last night. The 25-year-old will undergo a fitness test at 11am this morning. If he is unable to take his place in the side, Rais M'Bolhi will come in. M'bolhu underwent a trial at Manchester United at the end of season and was considered well short of the mark.
Several of Saadane's players have been poached from the French national youth but Hassan Yebda, a junior international with Les Bleus, was still moved to learn more of the Algiers uprising. "We looked at the film yesterday – 15 of us – and it was a very moving moment," he said. "This is what we need to do to unify the group and keep together."
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