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COUNTDOWN 30: Feghouli set to unite Algeria in Brazil

COUNTDOWN 30: Feghouli set to unite Algeria in Brazil
May 19
13:14 2014

While the Arab Spring was sweeping through Algeria and with no hope in sight, a certain Soufiane Feghouli was busy making a name for himself at Valencia.

Right now, he is ready to unite his adopted country at home and in the FIFA World Cup™ in Brazil.

The presence of French-born playmaker Feghouli is a blessing to the Algerian nation, as the 24-year old Valencia star man started playing for the nation last year and has integrated very well, scoring 5 goals in 17 caps.

The Algerian national football team, known as the Desert Foxes, is appearing in consecutive World Cups for the second time in their history, and they will be looking to improve their record to give the home fans something to sing about.

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Algeria has never progressed beyond the group stages in three previous appearances in 1982, 1986 and 2010. However, successive qualification for the World Cup, a bunch of talented players and their understanding as a team — a much-improved version of the dull one that played in South Africa four years ago — gives the nation much optimism.

The North African powerhouse went in search of a pragmatic coach after the 2010 debacle, and found Yugoslavia and Bosnian, Vahid Hilihodzic.

Hilihodzic, 61, has a impressive track record in Africa, knitting together the many stars in the Elephants of Cote D’Ivoire team to qualify them for the World Cup in 2010 only to be controversially sacked before the tournament.

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A Similar fate almost befell him again after the CAN 2013 debacle, but the football-loving fans and media houses saved him from the chop. Therefore, he owes them a good showing in Brazil.

Algeria is on the verge of having its own Golden Generation, with several young players such as Yacine Brahimi, Ishak Belfodil, Sader Tahir, and Sofiane Feghouli finding themselves in top European clubs and playing regularly.

Most notably, coach Hilihodzic has done his best to integrate these promising, young, attack-minded players; and mix them with some physical presence in Madjid Bougherra and Adlene Guediora, both boasting previous World Cup experience.

Strength
The country’s strength is in its midfield and attack, but more in the former. The midfield quartet of Ishak Belfodil, Sader Tahir, Sofiane Feghouli, and Foued Kadir provides enough services for their target man, Islam Silmani, who can score with any part of his body. Feghouli, in particular, should star for the Desert foxes after a scintillating personal season in which he has scored and assisted 15 goals in 51 games with Valencia. Not only is he known for his play-making skills — drawing fouls in key attacking areas — he also helps out the team out defensively.

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Weakness

Algeria boasts a well-knitted attack, but the same cannot be said of their defence. Coach Hilihodzic has been unable to solidify the defensive positions, and this is the biggest challenge facing this team. The defence does not know how to protect leads, and it is weak on set pieces and headers, with their full-back positions most-vulnerable.

Last line
Algeria may be the last name to look for in its group, but they are the real dark horse of a group comprising Belgium, Russia and South Korea. If the coach uses its attacking talents maximally, their 1982 upset of eventual finalists, West Germany, could be reenacted against Belgium. Surely, the Algerian nation can rise up with pride on the World stage again.

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