Ahead of England's crunch clash on Friday night skysports.com looks at Algeria's key men.
Last Updated: June 18, 2010 11:31am
Ziani: Algeria's chief creator
Ahead of England's crunch clash on Friday night skysports.com looks at Algeria's key men. The Africans kicked off their campaign with a disappointing 1-0 defeat to Slovenia and know a similar result against England will end their dream of escaping from the group stages. England are odds-on favourites to take the spoils but the Algerians do possess players that could cause the odd headache for Fabio Capello's side.
The creative force which makes Algeria tick. Any hopes they have of making it tough for England will depend on Ziani's ability to dictate proceedings. As one of the most experienced members of the side, and blessed with the ability to unlock the tightest of defences, the 27-year-old is his side's star man. Ziani can boast considerable UEFA Champions League experience in his locker, having turned out in Europe's premier club competition for Marseille and Wolfsburg. He was snapped up by the then German champions last summer, taking with him a glowing reputation from his time in France. The 2009/10 campaign did not quite go as planned for Wolfsburg or the player himself, as they struggled to hit the heights, but having starred at the 2010 African Cup of Nations it appears Ziani is back to somewhere close to his best. Against Slovenia his set-pieces caused the odd problem and he'll look to test whoever gets the nod in goal for England at every opportunity.
Captain Yahia is already regarded as a national hero in his homeland. As the scorer of the goal which helped to see off Egypt in a monumental play-off contest, the 28-year-old can rest assured that he will forever hold a place in the hearts of the Algerian nation. His fantastic volley against the Pharaohs took Algeria to their first World Cup in 24 years, and only their third in history. That goal helped to prove that he is much more than an uncompromising centre-half, with his ability on the ball marking him out as an all-round performer at the heart of the back four. Yahia began his playing career with Italian giants Inter Milan but shot to prominence having moved on to Bastia in 2002. Two years at Nice followed before he was off to Germany at FC Bochum, initially on loan. Leeds were reported to have expressed an interest in him before he joined Bochum on a permanent basis in 2007, but he has flourished in the Bundesliga and appears to have made the right choice. He will likely be charged with the task of stopping Wayne Rooney on Friday.
Although largely used as right-midfielder by his club Borussia Monchengladbach, Matmour was employed in a more advanced role against Slovenia. In Algeria's opener he was charged with the task of supporting the ineffective Rafik Djebbour and in training this week he has been pushed even further up the field into a striking role. Algeria have a paucity of options up front as Djebbour was poor and substituted against Slovenia, while his replacement Abdelkader Ghezzal was sent-off. The 24-year-old has played more than 50 matches for Monchengladbach and will therefore have an important knowledge of the European style of football, which could be essential when facing England. Matmour began his youth career with hometown club Strasbourg before signing his first professional contract with German side Freiburg in 2005. He moved to Monchengladbach in the summer of 2008 on a four-year contract. Matmour received his first call-up to the Algeria team in 2007 and he was a member of the country's 2010 African Cup of Nations squad.
Yebda spent last season on loan at Portsmouth from Benfica and managed to impress in an extremely difficult season at Fratton Park. The versatile midfielder is expected to leave Pompey after their relegation from the Premier League and has been linked with a number of clubs in England. Yebda will therefore hope that the World Cup will act as an extra shop window. The 26-year-old joined Benfica in 2008 as the Portuguese club were attracted by his creativity after spells with Auxerre and Le Mans. Yebda represented France at youth level and was a part of Les Bleus' Under-17 squad who won the World Championship in 2001. But he decided to switch his allegiance to Algeria and made his debut in 2009 before becoming a regular in the 2010 African Cup of Nations when his country reached the semi-finals. Yebda started against Slovenia and will do so again against England. Although he is neat and tidy he could be overpowered by England's middle three.
Chaouchi is perhaps the player in South Africa who can most empathise with Robert Green, having made a similar gaffe in Algeria's opener against Slovenia. Chaouchi, a perennial second choice for his country, was awarded a rare opportunity to impress in a crunch play-off date with Egypt in November 2009, and grabbed the chance with both hands. A star showing against his arch rivals, in which he produced a number of stunning saves, helped Algeria record a historic 1-0 win and took them to their first World Cup finals since 1986. He kept his place for his country's opener but speculation suggests Algeria, like England, could be readying a change between the posts.
Bougherra usually operates at right-back for Algeria, rather than his favoured position at centre-half. He has struggled with niggling knocks heading into the tournament, but back at full fitness will be charged with marshalling the back four throughout Algeria's time in South Africa. Spells at Gueugnon, Crewe, Sheffield Wednesday, Charlton and Rangers have allowed him to showcase his considerable talent and he is a respected figure. A classy operator, he is comfortable with the ball at his feet and is not afraid to play his way out from the back. Having endured a sometimes strained relationship with current employers Rangers, another impressive showing this summer could see him on the move once more. Still only 27, and with 40 international caps to his name, do not be surprised if Bougherra is soon heading back to the English Premier League.
The Portsmouth full-back is a favourite with the Algeria faithful and readily made himself available on the overlap against Slovenia; albeit with mixed results. On Friday he will be charged with stopping Aaron Lennon in a battle that pits together two players with real pace. The 2010 World Cup will provide welcome relief to Belhadj following a turbulent campaign at domestic level. Fortunately for Belhadj he was among a select few to see their reputation enhanced during a troubled time at Fratton Park and he is reported to have a long list of admirers ready to snap him up. His international career to date has spanned six years, earning him over 40 caps, and he was part of the Algeria squad which reached the semi-finals of the 2010 African Cup of Nations - a game which saw him sent-off during a heated exchange with Egypt.