World Cup 2014: Algeria national soccer team guide
Many North American viewers will remember them first and foremost as the hard-luck victims of Landon Donovan's late heroics in the USA's 1-0, group-winning victory in the 2010 World Cup.
But there's more to Algeria than that painful moment in Pretoria. Now led by canny Bosnian manager Vahid Halilhodzic, Les Fennecs (Desert Foxes) have ushered in a new generation of talent while keeping on course for a second straight qualification from the always-rugged Confederation of African Football.
GROUP H SCHEDULE
WHO GOT THEM THERE
Madjid Bougherra, D, Lekhwiya (pictured left): The center back starred for Rangers FC during their last stint atop the Scottish Premier League and now provides a veteran anchor for a youngish Algeria side.
Islam Slimani, F, Sporting Clube de Portugal: Les Fennecs' leading scorer during qualification – he found the net nearly once every 90 minutes – made a big move from domestic club CR Belouizdad to one of the Portuguese top flight's giants over the summer.
Sofiane Feghouli, M, Valencia: One of the flashiest jewels in Halilhodzic's youth movement, Feghouli is the latest of many to draw comparisons to another French-born Algerian talent, the one and only Zinédine Zidane, and has the potential to enliven the traditionally cautious Foxes.
Vahid Halilhodzic (pictured right) wears no beard but he might just have a case for “most interesting man in the world” given his peripatetic journey in the game.
Fleeing war-torn Herzegovina in the early 1990s, he climbed up the coaching ranks from the French lower divisions to Morocco – where he won the African Champions League with Raja Casablanca – to the bright lights of Paris as the boss at PSG, and on to myriad other jobs in places like Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Ivory Coast.
His evenhanded leadership kept the latter team from completely unraveling at the 2013 African Cup of Nations after a deadly terrorist attack on the Togo national team near Ivory Coast's home base.
HOW THEY QUALIFIED
WCQ record: 6-2-0 / 16 GF, 7 GA (first place in Africa's Group H, won two-legged playoff with Burkina Faso)
Algeria began the road to Rio by cruising past Mali, Benin and Rwanda in group play. After a 3-2 loss in Ouagadougou, the Foxes carved out a tense 1-0 win over the Burkinabé at home in the second leg to advance to Brazil on the away-goal tiebreaker.
WORLD CUP HISTORY
Algeria sprang one of the biggest upsets in the tournament's annals when they shocked West Germany 2-1 at Spain 1982, only the second victory by an African side in World Cup history. But the knockout rounds remain elusive, as they were unable to escape the group stage in '82, '86 or '10.
LA Galaxy star Landon Donovan set off nationwide delirium when he swept the injury-time winner past Algerian goalkeeper Raïs M'Bolhi that pushed the USMNT to the top of Group C at South Africa 2010, an iconic play that also featured Seattle Sounders star Clint Dempsey and former New York Red Bull Jozy Altidore ... Current MLSers Carlos Bocanegra, Jay DeMerit, Benny Feilhaber and Edson Buddle also saw action in that match ... Young Algerian midfielder Saphir Taider joined Inter Milan in a $7.3 million transfer earlier this year, a few months before D.C. United majority owner Erick Thohir bought a controlling interest in the Italian powerhouse.