Algeria v Egypt, African World Cup qualifying, June 7, 2009
After slipping down to 40th place in the FIFA rankings, their lowest since November 2007, the Egyptian national team will face Algeria on Sunday in a crucial World Cup qualifying match.
Egypt has managed only a draw at home against Zambia in its first game, but Algeria also failed to impress, claiming just a draw with Rwanda. Both of the teams know they must get points in this game if they want to continue dreaming about South Africa, as Zambia already proved to be a dangerous team who can surprise the North African powerhouses.
It has been a crazy week for Algeria in the days building up to this match. So great is the pressure that coach Rabah Saadane broke down in tears this week and begged the government to provide security for him and his family in case of a defeat.
Egypt has never won on Algerian soil, and the Algerian fans are expecting a famous victory. They believe they have the power to beat the two-time African kings and secure a surprise qualification to the World Cup. The Algerian players are known for their fighting spirit, but the drain of talent to France means that Algeria today is far away from being the force it was in the 90s.
Egypt will hope to take advantage of the situation. Hassan Shehata’s team failed to impress in its last friendly win (1-0 against Oman) but the Egyptian team has proven in the past its ability to secure the points in big games.
With the Confederations Cup just around the corner, the Egyptians know they need to prove once again that they are a force to be reckoned with in world football. The Pharaohs havenâ€™t reached a World Cup since 1990 and after the two straight successes in the Africa Cup of Nations, each and every Egyptian fan is sure that the team must conquer Algeria on its way to South Africa.
The Egyptian team, even if not in good form, is still a very organized group of players. Shehata’s formation of 3-4-1-2 depends mainly on the midfielders. And much depends on the true organizer of the team, Hosny Abd Rabou.
The second most important player for Egypt is maestro Mohamed Abu Treika. The magician is not in the greatest of form, but everyone in Egypt expects him to rise up to the occasion. Abu Treika is the sole player in the formation who is almost free of tactical instructions, and his creativity can overpower almost any defence in the world. So even if Amr Zaki is not in scoring form, Emad Metab is injured and Mido is out of the squad, if Abu Treika provides a good performance, the strikers will find themselves in front of goal.
For the Desert Foxes, their talisman Karim Ziani will be back from suspension. There is a long history of fiery Arab derbies between these two teams, particularly the match where Algeria denied them passage to the 1994 World Cup even though the Desert Foxes had already been disqualified.
Algeria will try to use Ziani in order to develop an aggressive style of play and force pressure on the Egyptians. Shehata’s players need to prove that they can bear the pressure, develop their attacking passing game and gain a valuable win.
101gg predicts: Algeria 1 – Egypt 2; Full odds on the African World Cup qualifiers can be found here.