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Friday, June 18, 2010

ENGLAND vs ALGERIA >>> Match Preview


England go into the game against Algeria with the media spotlight well and truly on them after their 1-1 draw with USA. Headlines of 'The Hand of Clod' greeted goalkeeper Robert Green after his error gifted Clint Dempsey an equaliser and there has been much talk over who Fabio Capello will install as his No.1 - keep the faith with Green, or turn to the veteran David James? It is an unusual situation for Capello's side to be under such pressure, especially after a qualifying campaign that saw them lose just once, but the Italian's secrecy over his team selection has not helped matters and the press have gone into overdrive, creating a frosty atmosphere with the coach that worsened when he snapped at photographers recently.

With injury issues surrounding Ledley King, Jamie Carragher has been called into action at the heart of the defence alongside John Terry and, worryingly, there is now a distinct lack of pace in the centre. Algeria are not blessed with speed at the back either and there were rumours before the game that Jermain Defoe could be given a chance to run at the defenders in place of the lumbering Emile Heskey, with Peter Crouch's height continuing to be used as an option off the bench.

With the pace of Lennon and Johnson down the right, Algeria will look to left-back Nadir Belhadj to hold off their attacks and use his own speed to push them back into their own half. A defensive 4-5-1 formation from their opening game against Slovenia suggests that they won't be pushing forward with that much gusto, but the defeat already on their record means they need a win and should be looking to score early and then sit back. Former Marseille star Karim Ziani will be key to Algeria's hopes in the final third and his combination play with striker Rafik Djebbour could prove their best hope of scoring, especially on the counter attack.
Although this will be the first meeting between England and Algeria, the Three Lions have kept a clean sheet in four of their five World Cup encounters against African sides.

England player to watch: Gareth Barry
A gaping hole in the England midfield was left when Barry went down with an ankle injury before the tournament, and Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard were left to try to fill in against USA. Barry is fit again now, so the defensive midfield slot is assured and the balance of the England side is much better. The left-footer will be alongside Lampard, with Gerrard switched to the left, and suddenly England look capable of providing more of an attacking threat.

Algeria player to watch: Hassan Yebda
The 'heart and soul' of the team, Yebda's tracking back and tigerish tackling will assist in keeping the wing threat of England down. But he also has his own box of tricks and is a very capable crosser and dribbler of the ball. While he would want more in terms of a goal return, how he deals with Gerrard on the left of the midfield will determine how Algeria compete.
Key battle: David James v Faouzi Chaouchi

A rather odd battle perhaps, but whichever England goalkeeper gets the nod in the end will have his hands full with the media spotlight and will be under pressure not to make a mistake. Green is expected to keep the gloves, despite his error against USA and conventional wisdom suggests James will take his place if he is dropped, although Hart has been the man in form of late. Algeria's Chaouchi is under his own pressure after his mistake against Slovenia gifted them the win, so the 'keepers at both ends of the pitch will be key to the game.
Trivia: Algeria's national anthem is called "Qassaman" - (The Pledge). Qassaman was written during Algeria's struggle for independence from French colonial rule. Seventeen of the 23 Algerian players were born in France.
Stats: England have never lost against an African team: 11 wins and four draws, while Algeria have never kept a clean sheet in seven World Cup matches.

England stuttered a bit in the first game, but then so did Algeria. If England get an early goal it will settle the nerves, otherwise it will be tough to break down the Algerian side.
Take ALGERIA + 1 1/2 (Main Bet)
Take a DRAW (Small Fun Bet)

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