Free scoring Algeria on the rise

Algeria began 2012 in 32nd place in the Fifa world rankings. They dropped as low as 38th in April, but finished the year on an upward trend by rising from 34th in August to a high of 19th in November. It's their highest ranking in at least 20 years.

During the course of the year, they won six matches and lost two. What was impressive was the Desert Foxes' ability to score goals. They netted 17 times in their eight games, including a 4-0 win over Rwanda, 4-1 over Gambia, and 3-0 over Niger. At the same time, they conceded only five goals.
Clearly, then, this seems to be a well balanced team, with scoring ability and a stingy defence. Despite the retirements in mid-year of some established stars, Algeria has continued to perform well, and they travel to South Africa with knowledge of the elements, having contested the 2010 Fifa World Cup in which they drew 0-0 with England and narrowly lost 0-1 to Slovenia and the United States.
In the midfield, Karim Ziani, who first turned out for the Desert Foxes in 2003, pulls the strings in midfield. A small man, he is a creative player and experienced, too, having played in the Afcon finals of 2004 and 2010, and the World Cup in South Africa.
Striker El Arbi Hillel Soudani, although only in the early stages of his international career, is a player to watch out for. He has made a strong start to his international career and is a proven goal scorer at club level. In 108 matches for Algerian club ASO Chlef, he scored 48 times before moving to Portugal's Vitória Guimarães.
Soudani has formed an effective partnership with Islam Slimani, who is also inexperienced, but not short on goals, and good striking parternships, as opposed to single strikers are what make the biggest impact on the attacking end of the field.

Algeria will be making their 15th Africa Nations Cup finals appearance in January in South Africa.
The 1990 champions had one of the smoothest qualifying runs of any team on the road to South Africa to make up for their failure to qualify for the previous event that was jointly hosted by Gabon and Equatorial Guinea last January and February.

Algeria enjoyed a one hundred percent record, qualifying under the helm of their highly-respected and much-travelled Franco-Bosnian coach Vahid Halilhodžic.

Halilhodžic has drawn and lost just once in his 10 games in charge since his appointment in June 2011.

Meanwhile, on their way to Johannesburg, Algeria dismantled Gambia 4-1 at home and 2-1 away in the first round.

They took their good away form to Libya beating their hosts 1-0 at their adopted home in Casablanca, Morocco.

Algeria later ensured their place in South Africa on October 14 with a 2-0 home win in Blida.

24-year old striker Islam Slimani of Algiers giants CR Belouizdad, inspired Algeria with three goals in four matches en route to South Africa.

Surprisingly, Slimani remains slightly under the radar and his exploits this year have gone unrecognized by CAF, even for the 2012 African-based Player of the Year award.

Sofiane Feghouli is an attacking midfielder who poses a threat to any defence he comes up against. His influence in attack for Algeria is likely to be one of the talking points when the Fennecs take on the rest of Africa in the 2013 Afcon. He plays for Valencia in the Spanish Liga at club level, and they will miss his abilities during the continental competition.

The former French youth international is important for the national team due to the attacking opportunities that he creates from midfield, although he is no slouch when aiming to make the difference on his own. The 22-year-old will be looking to gain the respect of Algerian supporters, while taking on the playmaker role in a very talented line-up.


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