It was third time lucky for Algeria. They finally managed a win over the UAE, albeit by a miserly penalty scored by Karim Ziani in the second half following Sbait Khaterâ€™s handling of the ball in the box. It was an unconvincing win, but a win nonetheless that will spur Algeria on to look forward to putting on a good show in the World Cup finals.
In their first group match against Slovenia on June 13th, the Algerians will have to play a lot better than they did in their match against the UAE to have any hope of reaping something out of that match.
Algeria had most of the players back from injury and the coach could manage to line-up his star players. It was a good dress rehearsal for a team still looking for style, flair and efficiency in front of goal. They played in a 4-4-2 formation which could quickly turn into a 4-3-3 when they had possession of the ball and attacking.
This was the team: Chaouchi in goals, Bougherra, Halliche, Yahia, Belhadj, Mansouri (Kadir 65â€™), Lacen (Guedioura 77â€™), Ziani, Matmour, Ghezzal (Saifi 63â€™), Djebbour (Boudebouz 64â€™).
Coach Saadane has a lot of adjustments to make in the team before it is the finished product. In an interview right after the UAE match, Saadane said that there is still a lot of work to be done but on D day, Algeria will be a different team. In this last match, the team lacked cohesion and discipline. Saadaneâ€™s main worry is Hassan Yebdaâ€™s injury and he is hoping to see him fit in time for the first match against Slovenia.
Algerian fans are ruing Algeriaâ€™s lack of scoring capabilities. It is a genuine problem and Saadane has to address it now, as time is running out. No goal was scored from open play in their three friendly matches before boarding the plane and heading for South Africa. Algeriaâ€™s two main strikers Ghezzal and Djebbour have not been, well, prolific. They are both going through a goal drought that is really frustrating for them and may seriously undermine their confidence. At the moment, Ghezzal is the one on the hotspot, being seen as the man responsible for squandering most scoring opportunities. With last nightâ€™s match, Ghezzal has now gone eleven matches without scoring.
Algeria created a few scoring chances, mainly by their playmaker Karim Ziani who had a great match against the UAE. Ziani kept feeding his two strikers but to no avail. Belhadj also, with his marauding runs down the left flank, kept crossing the ball but the two forwards were on a lunch break.
In midfield, Saadane kept faith with his captain Mansouri, an ageing and slow player under fire for not doing his job as a holding midfielder, supposed to patrol the midfield and protect the back four. The press in Algeria along with coaches and former players have been criticizing Saadaneâ€™s decision to stick with Mansouri when he has young and powerful Adlene Guedioura at his disposal. In fact, against the UAE, Guedioura did in ten minutes what Mansouri did not do in 80 minutes. When Yebda is fit, will Saadane finally do the right thing and take Mansouri off? We shall see on June 13th.
At the moment, things are not looking bright but the players and their coach have promised that they will show their mettle when things really matter: the World Cup finals.