2010 FIFA Preview: Algeria

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    Getty Images
    CAIRO, EGYPT - NOVEMBER 14: Rafik Saifi of Algeria during the FIFA2010 World Cup qualifying match between Egypt and Algeria at the Cairo International Stadium on November 14, 2009 in Cairo, Egypt. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

    ALGERIA
    FIFA RANK:
    31

    The long, lonely walk across the desert is finally over for the African side promptly known as the "The Desert Foxes."

    In the 80's, Algeria was a force to be reckoned with, not only in Africa, but around the world.

    In fact, a major World Cup change took place because of Algeria's '82 squad. That team pulled off one of the greatest cup upsets of all-time, knocking off West Germany in the group stage. But the Desert Foxes failed to make it to the second round because Austria and West Germany already knew Algeria's final match result (they played a day earlier against Chile) and made an unspoken agreement to fix their match so both teams could advance instead of Algeria. It outraged the soccer community and FIFA then decided all final group matches would be played simultaneously so similar collusion could never be done again.

    Algeria still managed to bounce back to make the '86 World Cup and win the African Cup of Nations in 1990, but there hadn't been a significant moment since. Well that all changed last year in Sudan.

    Algeria and Egypt finished tied in World Cup qualifying, and were forced to go into a playoff for the final African spot. Now if you think Red Sox-Yankees, Cowboys-Eagles or even Texas-OU are fierce rivalries, then you've never heard of the hatred in North African rivalry between Algeria and Egypt.

    Both countries had already played two heated qualifying matches that were marred by player fights on the field, and fan arrests and riots. Sudan was chosen as the neutral site and 15,000 extra police were called upon to try and keep the peace. The Desert Foxes, against all odds, pulled off the upset against Egypt (reigning African champs) and booked their trip to South Africa.

    So now that Algeria is in, can they pull off a few more upsets? They'll get a shot when they play group favorites England and dare I say USA. Rafik Saifi is the trigger man up front while Rangers defenseman Madjid Bougherra is a defensive rock. (And yes, I had to look at that name at least five times before I got the spelling right!)

    The Desert Foxes are considered by many to be the least competitve African side other than South Africa, but they have been pretty consistent recently and it would be wise not too take them lightly. I'm talking to you USA! Still there's no doubt Algeria is at least done wandering and they've finally found their way out of the desert and back into the World Cup.

    MATCH SCHEDULE:

    June 13 VS. Slovenia - 6:30 a.m. CT (Early matchup of the 2 non-favorites in the group, Desert Foxes need points here)
    June 18 VS. England - 1:30 p.m. CT (English should have no trouble, Algeria should hope for a draw)
    June 23 VS. USA - 9 a.m. CT (Gotta believe both will definitely need points here, may be battle for final spot in group)

    NEXT ON THE PITCH: PARAGUAY