The World Cup isn’t even two weeks old and the USA have experienced a rollercoaster of emotions. From the high of picking up a point against England, Bob Bradley’s side were suddenly staring elimination in the face when they went 2-0 down to Slovenia. At no point in the competition have the Stars and Stripes been ahead in a fixture, yet three points against les Fennecs on Wednesday will book them a place in the last 16.
Arguably the Americans should be even better placed. Having recovered from their two goal deficit against Matjaz Kek’s side, Maurice Edu thought he had snatched a dramatic late winning goal. The Rangers midfielder’s celebrations were cut prematurely short as his close range strike was disallowed due to supposed jostling in the box, though replays showed that it was the US forwards who were bearing the brunt of the physical exchanges.
That decision could prove critical in the final shake-up, though Bradley only has his thoughts turned towards Wednesday’s fixture.
“I ended up feeling badly for the team and our fans because a 3-2 comeback win would have given us a real chance of advancing and would have been something that was pretty special for everybody,” Bradley told the PA.
"It didn't happen that way, so we put it behind us. We understand that if we win we advance and we understand that there's a possibility that we can still win our group. We have moved forward.”
To emerge from Group C means picking up maximum points, something the Castrol World Cup Predictor suggests the Stars and Stripes have a 61 per cent chance of doing. Bradley has stated that “discipline” and effectiveness in front of goal will be key for his side as they strive for a knockout stage berth.
England draw no accident
Prior to the start of the World Cup, Algeria were given no chance of qualifying for the last 16, yet they go into the final game with a legitimate opportunity to progress. Achieving that means scoring, which Rabah Saadane’s side have failed to achieve during the duration of this competition to date, but any kind of three-goal success will certainly be good enough for the North Africans.
A goalkeeping error from Faouzi Chaouchi cost les Fennecs two points in their opening game of the competition against Slovenia, but with Rais M'Bolhi between the pins against England last Friday, Algeria held firm.
“Our loss to Slovenia was nothing more than an accident,” Madjid Bougherra proclaimed to the media after the England match.
“I definitely believe we can get to the next round. We are getting better and know what we have to do - beat the USA in our final group match.”
Les Fennecs have never previously met the USA in a competitive fixture, but the raw statistics don’t look especially favourable for the African side. While the Stars and Stripes are deemed by FIFA to be ranked 14th in the world, Saadane’s men are a more lowly 30th. Moreover, Algeria’s World Cup experience is extremely limited, and if this squad is to progress, they will be the first side from the expectant nation to ever play a knock-out game at the Finals.
The mental toughness of the Algerians cannot be questioned, after all they beat Egypt in an intense one-off playoff to reach the Finals, so anything could happen.
|USA 2-2 Slovenia
||Algeria 0-0 England
|England 1-1 USA
||Slovenia 1-0 Algeria
|Australia 1-3 USA
||Algeria 1-0 UAE
|USA 2-1 Turkey
||Republic of Ireland 3-0 Algeria
|USA 2-4 Czech Republich
||Serbia 3-0 Algeria
There were doubts expressed over the fitness of Tim Howard after the England game, but he came through the Americans’ latest fixture unscathed and will once again claim the gloves for this encounter.
Jose Torres, who started in the centre of the pitch against Slovenia, had a nightmare first half and was withdrawn at the interval. Though Maurice Edu was not brilliant, he was far steadier and should be retained. Benny Feilhaber could also feature from the start, especially as Robbie Findley is suspended.
Probable Starting XI: Howard; Cherundolo, Onyewu, DeMerit, Bocanegra; Donovan, Bradley, Edu, Dempsey; Altidore, Buddle.
Karim Ziani hasn’t trained regularly since the England game, but worries over his fitness have been allayed.
Coach Rabah Saadane has been tipped to change his formation to a 4-4-2 setup, meaning that Ryad Boudebouz will drop out to be replaced by Rafik Djebbour.
Probable Starting XI: Gaouaoui; Halliche, Bougherra, Yahia, Masbah; Kadir, Lacen, Yebda, Ziani; Djebbour, Matmour
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Michael Bradley was one of the stars of the show during the Stars and Stripes’ comeback against Slovenia. The coach’s son was one of the few players to pull their weight in the first half of that encounter, when he looked positive from midfield, showing an eye for an astute pass to break down the opposing defence. His running from the centre of the pitch will be key in this fixture, with a great burst against the Slovenians bringing a fine equaliser last Friday.
International goals are all but non-existent in the Algerian side, so the influence of creative midfielder Karim Ziani will be key. The Wolfsburg player has only served to disappoint in the early stages of the competition, but if the sparky 27-year-old has a strong game, his side can justifiably hope to win through.
The USA have recent experience of sneaking into the knockout stages of tournaments, having enjoyed a dramatic passage through to the semi-finals of the Confederations Cup. The Stars and Stripes will hope they don’t cut it quite so finely, but they should feel confident of progression on the back of their second half performance against Slovenia. Algeria, though defensive sound for the most part, have looked limited offensively and may struggle to break their opponents.
USA 2-0 Algeria
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