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SquadEdit

Goalkeepers: Rais M'bolhi (CSKA Sofia), Cedric Si Mohamed (CS Constantine), Mohamed Lamine Zemmamouche (USM Alger)

Defenders: Essaid Belkalem (Watford), Madjid Bougherra (Lekhwiya), Liassine Cadamuro Bentaiba (Mallorca), Faouzi Ghoulam (Napoli), Rafik Halliche (Academica), Aissa Mandi (Stade Reims), Carl Medjani (Valenciennes), Djamel Mesbah (Livorno)

Midfielders: Nabil Bentaleb (Tottenham), Yacine Brahimi (Granada), Medhi Lacen (Getafe), Mehdi Mostefa (Ajaccio), Saphir Taider (Inter Milan), Hassan Yebda (Udinese)

Forwards: Abdelmoumen Djabou (Club Africain), Sofiane Feghouli (Valencia), Nabil Ghilas (Porto), Riyad Mahrez (Leicester City), Islam Slimani (Sporting Lisbon), Hilal Soudani (Dinamo Zagreb)

Algeria
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Team ProfileEdit

Algeria appear primed to deliver their best showing at a FIFA World Cup.

The African nation have never made it beyond the first round of the tournament, and were one of just two sides who failed to score a single goal in South Africa four years ago.

It would also be fair to say Algeria have developed an unwanted reputation for wilting in crunch situations.

Twenty-four years have passed since the nation last claimed major silverware, by winning the 1990 Africa Cup of Nations, and they have failed to qualify for three of the last five stagings of the continental competition.

Prior to 2010, Algeria had only contested two previous World Cup tournaments - back-to-back in 1982 and 1986 - and they were unfortunate to miss out on progression in the former as Germany and Austria played out a controversial final group game that was far from competitive.

However, a new generation of exciting attacking talent has given Algerian fans cause for optimism in Brazil.

The likes of Sofiane Feghouli and Islam Slimani, plying their trade in Europe for Valencia and Sporting Lisbon respectively, are unlikely to endure the same problems as their goal-shy compatriots did in 2010.

In fact, of the 40 sides who contested the African qualification process, only Ghana, Ivory Coast and Egypt outscored the Algerians.

Together with an experienced backline, anchored by captain Madjid Bougherra, Algeria's youthful forwards could see their side into the second round for the first time.

Algeria's transformation from a defensive operation to a forward-thinking threat is testament to the work carried out by coach Vahid Halilhodzic since his appointment in 2011, not least handing debuts to Feghouli and Tottenham's Nabil Bentaleb, each of whom had previously represented France at youth level.

Halilhodzic has overseen qualification for a World Cup before, but will be making his finals debut in Brazil.

The Bosnian was in charge of Ivory Coast as they booked their place at the 2010 tournament, only to be sacked four months before the competition following a quarter-final defeat against future employer Algeria in the Africa Cup of Nations.

And this World Cup could well represent Halilhodzic's swansong in the Algeria hot-seat, with reports suggesting he is set to return to club football.

Algeria have been drawn in arguably the most open group, alongside Belgium, Russia and South Korea.

Belgium have been tipped by many to shine in Brazil, but Algeria will fancy their chances against all three of their Group H opponents.

And Halilhodzic believes every match will be a huge occasion for his players.

"It is not (that) we have to go to the World Cup just to participate, but rather to achieve three feats in each match of the first round," he said.

"Even if we are the smallest team in the group, I will invest all my abilities to achieve something that I will offer the Algerian people.

"I do not feel any undue pressure on me but the thing I hate most in the world is to lose, and that's what I taught my players."

If Algeria can avoid defeat to Belgium in their opening game, their hopes of reaching the knockout stages will be significantly enhanced.


Player Profile (Sofiane Feghouli)Edit

Position: Midfielder
Date of Birth: December 26, 1989
Club: Valencia
International Debut: v Gambia (February, 2012)
World Cup Appearances: 0
World Cup Goals: 0

Algeria have frequently exploited a wealth of French-born talent over the years and the 2014 FIFA World Cup will be no different.

While world-class players of Algerian descent such as Zinedine Zidane, Samir Nasri and Karim Benzema opted to pull on the blue shirt of the country of their birth in recent times, Paris-born Valencia midfielder Sofiane Feghouli leads a host of Frenchmen preparing to do battle for Vahid Halilhodzic's men in Brazil.

The 24-year-old has become a central figure in the national side since he opted to play for the African nation in 2011 - his skill and trickery positioning him as one of Algeria's biggest attacking threats.

Feghouli's heritage prompted some to dub him the 'new Zidane' in his teenage years and his performances have not escaped the glances of the French footballing legend - now assistant coach at Real Madrid.

"I like the Valencia player Feghouli, although for me, he still has room for improvement," he told Le Buteur earlier this year.

"He is not yet at the level he should be, but I really like him.

"He is doing great things here in Spain."

And those comments struck a chord with Feghouli, who is quoted as telling Qatari TV channel Al Kass: "Receiving praise from Zidane, who I consider as an example and a model for me, it's very flattering.

"I am very happy and it pushes me to work harder to make further progress."

Having reportedly failed to impress at Paris Saint-Germain during a 2004 trial, Feghouli's career as a professional started at Grenoble in the second tier of French football.

At the age of just 17, Feghouli made his Ligue 2 debut in a 1-0 win against Reims.

The following season saw the youngster become a first-team regular, scoring three goals as Grenoble achieved promotion to the top flight.

A knee injury caused Feghouli to endure a lengthy lay-off in 2009-10, with Grenoble officials apparently critical of his recovery time, suspecting he may have been angling for a move away from the club.

Indeed, it proved to be Feghouli's final year in France as Valencia secured his services.

After a spell on loan at Almeria in 2011, a string of impressive displays in 2012 earned Feghouli the recognition of the Algerian press, winning Le Buteur's Algerian Ballon d'Or and the DZFoot d'Or.

Having impressed at both his club and in the French youth ranks, Feghouli was thought to be on the verge of inclusion in the France squad for a friendly in 2008, but after missing out he was persuaded to play for Algeria in 2011.

Feghouli scored on his debut in a 2-1 win over Gambia a year later and is now all set to contest his first World Cup in Brazil.

Algeria may not be one of the most fancied teams to lift the famous trophy - far from it in fact - but Feghouli has vowed to do the country proud.

"We want to make history and we will strive to do everything to achieve it," he declared.

"The players are aware of this task and we are all very determined to bring happiness to all the Algerian people."


News SourcesEdit

Algerian FA - http://www.faf.dz/

DZFoot - http://www.dzfoot.com/ - excellent source – has an English version too at http://en.dzfoot.com/

Le Buteur - http://www.lebuteur.com

Maher Mezahi - @MezahiMaher – Tweets in English about all things Algerian football. Journo for Telegraph, ESPN and Al Jazeera.

Ennahar - http://www.ennaharonline.com/en/

Echorouk - http://sport.echoroukonline.com/

Algeria Press Service - http://www.aps.dz/en/sports - Also available in French/Arabic, which may be more up to date.

Sky’s Algeria page - http://www1.skysports.com/FIFA-World-Cup-2014/algeria