Offense key to Algerians’ strengthWhen Korea was assigned to Group H with Belgium, Russia and Algeria in the 2014 Brazil World Cup, fans and analysts said the draw was one of the best outcomes the Taegeuk Warriors could have wished for. But it looks like other nations have a similar idea, judging the Korean team as unlikely to pose much of a threat.
Since yesterday, the Korea JoongAng Daily and Ilgan Sports have been looking into each opponent. Today’s target is Algeria, an African nation in the group considered the team Korea should earn three points from during the group round match.
After playing their first match, against Russia at 7 a.m. on June 18, Korea time, the Taegeuk Warriors will have their second match against Algeria at 4 a.m. on June 23, Korea time. That match will determine Korea’s fate for the second round.
Algeria is an unfamiliar country, not only for Korea, but also for other nations. They have appeared in the World Cup only four times and didn’t qualify for the 2010 South Africa event.
“Algeria definitely isn’t a team that Korea could easily defeat,” analyst Jang Ji-hyun said. “It is true that Algeria wasn’t good in previous World Cup appearances, but it doesn’t mean that it gives three points to coach Hong Myung-bo. As we consider them as a team that guarantees three points, Algeria considers us in the same way we do. They will be aggressive on the field against us, for sure. We need to use this circumstance well in that game.”
The strength of the African team is offense. Each player has outstanding individual football skills, and most of their attackers are speedy. “Most of their prospects started learning playing football in France [Algeria became independent from France in 1962],” Jang said. “It means that most of their players who have robust physiques have learned European-style football. They also sometimes play like a Middle East team, which Korea used to struggle with.” Their weakness is defense because their four starting defenders have been changed in previous preliminary round matches.
The key player of the team is midfielder Sofiane Feghouli, 24, of Valencia, whose nickname is “Zinedine Zidane of Algeria.” He can basically play everywhere in the midfield area and usually tries to score goals after penetrating into the opponent’s central areas from sides. Their 186 centimeter (6 feet 1 inch) striker, Islam Slimani of Sporting Lisbon FC, is also a threat. “He can produce some headers in the goal area and he also has speed,” analyst Han Jun-hee said.
Most of Algeria’s squad consists of players in foreign leagues. Forward Ishak Belfodil and Saphir Taider, both 21, play in Italy’s Inter Milan. They are not starting members of the team, but they could come out in the late minutes of a game to hunt for a goal by using their speed.
“We also need to carefully look at 23-year-old Yacine Brahimi of Granada CF because he will be one of Algeria’s key players in the future,” Han said. “He’s playing on a mid-level Spanish club team as a key player there. If we only look at ball dribbling skills, he is definitely one of the top five dribblers in the Spanish league. If he has more experience in the league, he will possibly be the biggest threat for the Taegeuk Warriors.”
The best way to defeat this African team is to use their weakness on defense. Their defense isn’t organized and their players are very hot-tempered. “I saw defenders, including Madjid Bougherra, who is also the captain of the team, screwing up a game with some aggressive tackles that brought many yellow cards,” Han said. “Our speedy wingers such as Lee Chung-yong and Son Heung-min need to aggressively penetrate into the opponent’s penalty box to induce fouls. It will be a competitive match for the Korean team, but because our attackers play in European leagues, we can break their defense well. We need to score as many goals as we can in that game. ”
BY KWON SANG-SOO, KIM HWAN [firstname.lastname@example.org]