GROUP C STANDINGS AFTER WEEK 1

13 Jul

Group C            W            D            L            GD            PTS

Slovenia                 1            0            0              1              3

England                 0            1             0              0              1

USA                         0            1            0              0              1

Algeria 0                  0            1            -1              0

Desert Foxes VS Slovenia

Algeria arrive South Africa 2010 on the back of some terrific results and with nothing to lose. Having beaten bitter rivals Egypt to qualify for the World Cup, the Desert Foxes went even further and gave a good account of themselves at the Africa Cup of Nations earlier this year, finishing third after a end to end encounter with fellow World Cup hopefuls Cote D’Ivoire. This test will prove vital to the outcome of the group with favourites England and USA sharing the spoils in their clash the preceding night. The match got off to a tentative start with both teams cautious of conceding the early goal. Algeria were very much the aggressors counter attacking down the flanks at pace thanks to Zaini and Belhadj, but both sides lacked a cutting edge in the final third and the first half fizzled to an end with chances few and far between. Don’t get me wrong, each side was going forward and the match was anything but boring, but considering top spot was up for grabs, both Algeria and Slovenia seemed content with settling for a draw. The second half threatened to provide the same result until the Desert Foxes introduction of Ghezzal. A natural predator Ghezzal has been the scourge of many sides, coming off the bench and often providing the winner. Ghezzal looked lively up front and it was only a matter of time before the flanking players begun linking up with him, sending in crosses that he tried to direct goalwards. Ghezzal was fired up and earned a booking for a shirt pull – something it is clear referees are clamping down on this World Cup. Moments later Ghezzal flung himself in the air to connect with a cross only to realise it was out of his reach. In a moment of madness he raised his arm bringing the ball down. He knew the consequences instantly. The referee brandished a second yellow and Ghezzal’s game was done. With fifteen minutes to play with ten men Algeria almost took the lead when Ziani intercepted keeper Handanovic’s pass out. His first touch let him down and Handanovic recovered at Ziani’s feet leaving you wondering “what if that had been Ghezzal”? The following Slovenian attack looked like breaking down and Koren sent a low speculative effort in Chaouchi’s direction. I’ve heard a lot of talk about the Jabulani ball being the lightest ever and moving unpredictably with speed and venom when struck true. This shot was hit neither true nor at pace and Chaouchi has little excuse for his panicked flop in the direction of the ball especially after some full stretch saves he made in the first half. The ball glanced off his body and into the net. 1 – 0

Little else occurred in this encounter with the Desert Foxes hanging on and Slovenia happy to take the three points by a narrow margin. The game itself will have pleased both England and the USA but the result also puts a heap of pressure on the group “favourites”. Algeria have it all to do and even less to lose now, claiming a scalp or salvaging a point from either of the Desert Foxes remaining group fixtures will be a huge boost. The loss of Ghezzal will have a huge impact on the team and Algeria may as well come out all guns blazing from the start looking for the early goal before retreating into their strong defence.

Final Score: Algeria 0 – 1 Slovenia

Most Important African Player: Belhadj pushed the Slovenians back with his endeless surges down the wing.

Talking Point: touRnament football is a curious beast where anything is possible. When you go into a match as an “underdog”, do you go for it or play defensive? Personally, I think it’s always a mistake showing too much respect for your opposition. Once your team makes it into the World Cup, you deserve to be there. Yes, there may have been some luck involved or fortuitous results in qualifying, but that’s football and once that kick-off whistle is blown, every other result goes out the window. “Underdogs” should always go for it, play 2 or 3 up front, the “favourites” will never expect that and perhaps think twice about their gung-ho attitude and show the respect demanded by the fact that you’re right there with them.

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