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Sunday 24 September 2017

Saadane: Irish deserve to be at World Cup

Algeria coach Rabah Saadane has warned his players they face World Cup humiliation at the hands of England if they do not pull up their socks.

The North African side were comprehensively beaten 3-0 by the Republic of Ireland -- who will, of course, not be in South Africa -- at the RDS last night, just three weeks before they are due to meet Fabio Capello's men in Cape Town.

Ireland, of course, missed out on the finals as a result of their controversial play-off exit at the hands of Thierry Henry's France, and Saadane admitted Giovanni Trapattoni's men should be the on the evidence of their latest display.

He said: "Ireland are a formidable team -- they were superior to us and deserve a place in the World Cup. But England will be a tougher team than the one we faced tonight. They are one of my favourites to reach the final."

Capello's assistant Franco Baldini was in Ballsbridge to see the Republic end their season with a second victory over World Cup-bound opponents in four days.

The word from the Algerian camp is that they dread England's set-piece prowess, so Saadane will have wished to see signs that his rejigged defence could cope with that threat.

Instead he got confirmation that he needs the Rangers centre-back Madjid Bougherra to regain fitness because his stand-in, Eintracht Frankfurt's Habib Ballaid, endured a difficult debut and received scant support from his more experienced partner, Rafik Halliche, whose flustered attempted clearances, especially from high balls, frequently spread panic among his team-mates.

Mehdi Lacen, stationed at the base of Algeria's midfield diamond, was meant to give extra cover to his defence but he was too often outnumbered until Saadane tinkered at half-time, switching to a five-man midfield with Yazid Mansouri alongside Lacen in the middle, with Karim Ziani, hitherto at the tip of the diamond, shifted out to the right.

Ziani has been in and out of Wolfsburg's side this season but he is Algeria's most creative player and dependency on him increased this week with the news that Mourad Meghni will miss the World Cup though injury.

Algeria began with a forward duo that, though big and enthusiastic, count only six international goals between them and were as weak in the air as their defenders were. The country's top scorer, Rafik Saifi, was introduced in the second half and showed elegant touches but he, at 35, is far from certain to start in South Africa.

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