Algeria has yet to score a goal in the World Cup, but set to play six men in midfield, they are capable of choking their match against the United States and relying on their stars - players like Karim Ziani - to break down an inconsistent United States defense. With one point through two rounds, Algeria needs a win on Wednesday, preferably by more than one goal, as any scenario by which they advance has them winning a tiebreaker to claim second place.
The U.S. can afford to have greater aspirations. A win and they are through to the knockout stage, but with some help from the England-Slovenia match, the United States could win a group for the first time in their World Cup history. To do so, they’ll need start to solve their problems in defense and devise a way through Algeria’s congested midfield, but as the U.S. has shown in the first two matches of this tournament, their ability to adapt should not be underestimated.
United States, Going Forward: If not striking on the counter attack, the United States is using quick, direct movements to generate goals. None of their three scores in this tournament have come through beautiful build-up play. The U.S. strikes quickly and, thus far this tournament, effectively.
Between talent and formation, Algeria is well-situated to deal with the United States’ attack. The Desert Foxes will play a three man defense with a line of four in front (3-4-2-1 or 5-4-1, depending on how you want to look at it). This gives Algeria three central defenders to deal with Jozy Altidore while having a back on each wing to maintain presences against Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey. Particularly against Donovan, Algeria is strong, with Nadir Belhadj at left wingback.
The worrisome thing about the United States from Algeria‘s point of view is their resourcefulness. All three of their World Cup goals came in drastically different ways, and while looking at the United States on video (and paper) gives a general impression that they can be contained, the U.S.’s resiliency show they could score goals on anybody. Perhaps this is a function of their opponents underestimating them, but given U.S. performances in the last year against Brazil, Spain and England, Algerians underestimating them could end their World Cup.
Algeria, Going Forward: The flip side to Algeria electing to clog the midfield is the lack of presence in the attacking third. With Karim Ziani in the middle and Belhadj’s runs down the left flank, Algeria has no problems getting into attack.
Once there, they’ve been hopeless. Rabah Sadaane has nobody who he can count on for goals. Unless the Desert Foxes get unexpectedly good performances from Karim Matmour and Abdelkader Ghezzal, there is a chance they could go the whole tournament without a goal.
If there’s hope for Algeria it’s in the fact that their 180 scoreless minutes have come against Slovenia and England. Each of those teams seem to defend better than the United States, who have had trouble preventing goals going back to qualifying. These troubles will be amplified against Algeria, who have the quickness and technical ability to go directly at the U.S.’s weakest point: central defense. We could see Ziani and Matmour combining for opportunities much like the one scored upon by Steven Gerrard.
How The Match Turns: In a contest of evenly-match teams, the United States’ ability to elevate their game when needed becomes a tiebreaker of sorts. If the U.S. can find another gear in the second half against Algeria, this match could turn into a very open affair, as Algeria pushes back at the U.S. while searching for a win.