Posted by Jeff Carlisle
Their roster has been wracked by injury. Among those that are healthy are players who have been struggling to get consistent playing time with their clubs. You're thinking the U.S., right? Granted, this describes the Americans to some degree, but it also applies to Group C opponents Algeria. The Desert Foxes announced their preliminary 25-man roster on Tuesday, a list notable for including seven uncapped players.
Rest assured, the big names are there. Lorient midfielder Yazid Mansouri will captain the team, aided by Vfl Bochum attacker Karim Ziani, Rangers defender Madjid Bougherra and Siena forward Abdelkader Ghezzal. All told, 16 of the players who traveled to Angola for the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations are in manager Rabah Saadane's side. That number could rise when Saadane adds five additional domestic players to fill out his roster.
Yet the fact that so many new faces -- several of them former French youth internationals -- have been brought into the side reveals a team lacking in depth, and this could prove critical for the U.S. in its bid to reach the second round. The Americans play Algeria in the final group game on June 23. By then injuries and suspensions could very well be cutting into the muscle of the Desert Foxes, forcing them to field players with scant international experience. This could give the U.S. a better opportunity to prevail in a match they'll almost certainly have to win in order to reach the knockout rounds.
Of course, Saadane could be dealing with such headaches at the beginning of the tournament as well. At present, defender Nadir Belhadj is suspended for the first match against Slovenia following his ejection in the contentious African Cup of Nations semifinal against Egypt. Goalkeeper Faouzi Chaouchi is banned for the first two games after appearing to head-butt referee Coffi Codjia in the same match.
The two suspensions are under appeal, and a technicality could wipe out Chaouchi's ban altogether. Algeria is currently taking part in qualifiers for the 2011 African Nations Championship, an international tournament open only to domestically-based players. Since Chaouchi is eligible to play, it may be determined that he can serve his suspension by sitting out those matches. The appeals will be decided next week at a meeting of the CAF, the governing body of African soccer.
Injuries are a concern as well. Yacine Bezzaz and Hameur Bouazza are already ruled out, while midfielders Hassan Yebda and Mourad Meghni are struggling to get fit. All of these factors could conspire to upend Algeria's own hopes of reaching the second round.