World Cup 2014: Algeria preview - Bentaleb must shine; defence the key

Algeria National Team 2013 Training

Tottenham Hotspur starlet Nabil Bentaleb will have to prove worthy or Algeria will be going home early.

The perception

The Desert Foxes, who qualified after a controversial play-off against Burkina Faso, are genuinely considered as one of the weakest teams at this tournament.

However their squad is generally not bad. Who can forget four years ago when they left England red faced and Wayne Rooney bellowing public abuse to the nation.

But most expect them to exit at the group stage.

The reality

They are not the pushovers people are making them out to be. When organised they are a solid, defensive, unite that will be hard to break down and will not go down without a fight.

All in all however, they lack the individual quality to make an impact. Expect Algeria to go home early.

Strengths

Their strength comes in defence, especially when they need to be on point. They have conceded just one goal in their last three games - before that a blip in a 3-2 defeat against Burkina Faso.

But overall, in their last ten games, they have conceded just seven goals - keeping six clean sheets.

Expect them to try shut down Belgium and Russia with their spoil tactics, and to come out of their shell against South Korea.

Weaknesses

The team lacks a big star, but perhaps the biggest weakness is getting them all to get along. There is often talk of a divide between the French-converts among the team and the rest of the players. For instance Leicester City forward Riyad Mahrez has come in under something of a cloud.

A similar thing separated the camp at the last African Nations and they flopped. This team must be together to succeed.

Key Player

Algeria have dangerous players in attack. All the strikers are potent enough to pose a threat while Sofiane Feghouli is a dangerous opponent.

But the key man when it comes to Vihad Halilodzic's selection is Dinamo Zagreb attacker Hilal El Arbi Soudani.

Not a household name, but his hard work and pace down the flank or through the middle is one of the cornerstones of this team and he is usually the first name on the team sheet.

Not the most glamorous of players, but definitely one of the more important.

One to Watch

It has to be Tottenham Hotspur's Nabil Bentaleb. He has made himself at home since making his debut for the country last year and his controlled, measured, approach from the midfield could be the key to Algeria punching above their weight.

Verdict

This team are not the whipping boys everyone thinks they are. There are definitely little talents of pocket across the squad. That said, getting out of the group will be very tough for Algeria.

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