GROUP H
Algeria

THE 60-SECOND OVERVIEW

Belgium are the unchallenged favourites in Group H, but, on paper, there's not much separating the other three contenders. With players plying their trade at Inter Milan, Valencia, Napoli and Tottenham among their ranks, Algeria needn't feel inferior to either Russia or South Korea.

There is, admittedly, much left to be desired from their recent tournament history: Algeria haven't won a single match in their two most recent World Cup outings. But unwanted records are there to be broken, and Les Fennecs aren't going to Brazil as tourists. In such a competitive group, anything can happen.

THE DREAM

Win a match or two and make the round of 16. Algeria went close in 1982, beating European champions West Germany 2-1 in the opening fixture. Unfortunately, the North Africans needed a favourable goal difference to advance; Austria and West Germany conveniently arranged a mutually beneficial result, sending the Algerians home. The incident has been branded the ‘Shame of Gijon’ and it remains a blemish in the Algerian psyche. Qualifying to the round of 16 might finally put that footballing injustice to bed: it’d certainly send Algeria barmy.

THE NIGHTMARE

Another performance like 2010. It wasn’t all doom and gloom – Algeria were slightly unlucky and played brilliant possession football at times. What most fans regret from the last edition of the World Cup is not the results, but the manner in which they were obtained.

Algeria set up defensively and often looked to simply retain the ball instead of break forward and fashion any kind of attacking opportunity. The worst thing Algeria can do this time is be unambitious. Fans would rather risk a hammering than sit through another tepid elimination.

THE STATS
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PLAYER MOST LIKELY TO...

SPRAIN SOME ANKLES: YACINE BRAHIMI

The Granada maestro leads the Spanish Liga in dribbling, averaging close to five whizz-alongs per game. If isolated against his fullback, expect Brahimi to attempt something entertaining nine times out of 10.

PLAYER MOST LIKELY TO...

HAVE YOU DUCKING FOR COVER: FAOUZI GHOULAM

There’s no doubting the quality of Ghoulam’s left peg. However, he’s yet to fully master the knuckleball technique he often employs when dispatching free-kicks. If you see the full-back lining one up, remain vigilant.

PLAYER MOST LIKELY TO...

SPORT AN ERRATIC HAIRDO: SAPHIR TAÏDER

Algerian players were hideously coiffed in South Africa 2010. Supporters are already groaning in anticipation of more embarrassing trims. Taïder has experimented with his barnet all year, leading to suspicion that he’ll try something truly awful come June.

DID YOU KNOW?

The precursor to the Algerian national team was the Front de Liberation. This comprised of Algerian players in France deserting their clubs and touring the Communist world, raising awareness for Algerian independence.

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A first World Cup finals win in 32 years might only be the start: Algeria could get out of a wide-open group.