England hunt the desert foxes
The battle between Rooney and Bougherra will be one of the flashpoints of the must-win match between England and Algeria on Friday night.
After both teams made poor starts to their 2010 World Cup campaigns, England face Algeria in a match that both sides regard as a must-win situation for differing reasons. Algeria, simply to stay in the competition, and England, to restore their billing as one of the pre-tournament favourites – at least in the eyes of the hysterical English press.
Algeria, after a 1-0 loss, were exposed for what they really are against Slovenia, an average team. Standing in their way are an England side looking to regain the initiative in Group C after a disappointing 1-1 draw with the USA. The stage is set for a battle that looks likely to resemble the football equivalent of a siege.
The scene is set for some individual battles. Algeria’s uncompromising defender Madjid Bougherra, who plays his football for Scottish team Glasgow Rangers, facing the fiery Wayne Rooney who will be determined to get on the score sheet and restore English pride. Look out for a potential flashpoint in this head-to-head contest.
The key midfield contest will feature the defensive Yazid Mansouri whose role will be to police the marauding runs of England captain, Steven Gerrard, who will be looking to get forward at every opportunity. Mansouri, who had a brief spell at Coventry City in 2003, will likely sit just in front of the back four as an additional screen and will be vital to Algeria’s cause against the expected onslaught.
With Algeria likely to sit back in large numbers and look for opportunities on the break, there will be heavy reliance on the skillful Karim Ziani to quickly turn defence into attack when they win possession. He will earn the attentions of Gareth Barry, back after missing England’s first match through injury.
Algeria’s single attacker is likely to be Karim Matmour, whose form against Slovenia was one of the few positives in the Algerian performance against Slovenia. He looked Algeria’s best chance of getting on the score sheet but lacked support. Against England’s John Terry he will have to be at the top of his game if he is to best one of the world’s top defenders.
While the chances of a surprise can never be ruled out, the form book suggests that England should win this match and they will be looking to do so emphatically. The clash of cultures between English ruggedness and north African temperament could yield an explosive outcome.