Shout-Africa – South Africa – Algeria came into the World Cup as underdogs in Group B. But the northern Africans are full of confidence that they can beat the United States in their final group match.
‘If we can play to our potential then we don’t need to be afraid of any opponent. We can then beat anybody,’ said Algerian midfielder Karim Matmour of German club Borussia Moenchengladbach on Sunday after training at the Ugu Sports Centre in San Lameer.
Algeria, back at the World Cup for the first time since 1986, held England to a 0-0 draw for their first point of South Africa 2010 – though they have yet to score a goal.
Slovenia lead the group with four points while England and the United States both have two points.
Algerian captain Antar Yahia also believes in his team’s chances of beating the United States on Wednesday in Pretoria and reaching the Round of 16.
‘Our strength is playing as a unit on the pitch. If we don’t do that they we will not beat the U.S.,’ said the Bochum defender Yahia.
Algerian midfielder Mehhi Lacen admits that he is impressed with the morale of the U.S. team.
‘I watched the Americans’ games. In the 2-2 draw against Slovenia, they showed after the 2-0 deficit that they can fight back,’ said the Racing Santander midfielder Lacen. Algeria are just one-sixth of a record number of African teams at the World Cup. But players and officials from the nation of 35.7 million are proud to be the sole Arab participant and expect plenty of support from the home continent fans.
‘I am satisfied and very proud. For one because the World Cup is being played in Africa. But also because Algeria in the only Arab country taking part,’ said Algerian defender Nadir Belhadj.
Algerian Football Federation President Mohamed Raouaraoua also said making the World Cup is a huge accomplishment for his home nation.
‘We are very happy to be at the World Cup and represent the Arab world and the continent of Africa as well,’ Raouaraoua said at a press conference Wednesday as part of Algeria’s South Africa 2010 training camp in Herzogenaurach, southern Germany. Algerian midfielder Hassan Yebda meanwhile expects fans from the entire African continent to cheer them on as they face Slovenia, England and the United States in Group C at South Africa.
‘For Africa, for the continent, the World Cup is an exceptional thing. Since we are Africans we hope that every African spectator will support us,’ said Yebda.
Algeria are heavy underdogs in the group, but that hasn’t stopped the young Fennecs – or Desert Foxes – from thinking about bigger results.
‘We want to reach the second round at least. We are not just flying there to be part of the tournament. We also want to play and win,’ said Belhadj.
Belhadj’s club team-mate at Portsmouth, Yebda, hopes to give the people back home in Algeria an even bigger reason to be proud of them.
‘It’s exceptional for the people of Algeria because they are just people who love football. And it’s something very sensational and exceptional,’ added Yebda.