herald

Friday 15 December 2017

Algerians promise to return even better next time

Mehdi Lacen
Mehdi Lacen

ALGERIA surpassed expectations with their record-breaking World Cup display and midfielder Medhi Lacen has warned the best is yet to come.

Few had expected the north Africans to leave an impression in Brazil - a feeling heightened by defeat to Belgium in their Group H opener.

However, Vahid Halilhodzic's side confounded the doubters, beating South Korea 4-2 before holding Russia 1-1 to secure a place in the knockout stages for the first time in their history. 

Les Fennecs' dream tournament almost got even better in their last-16 clash against Germany, only to fall to a 2-1 extra-time defeat in Porto Alegre.

"We need to realise that a lot will be expected of us compared to other teams, and we shouldn't be afraid to live up to our new status and potential," midfielder Lacen said.

"We've often had waves of brilliant individuals, but they didn't always know how to play together. The arrival of Vahid Halilhodzic changed all that.

"There's been a huge improvement since I first got involved with the national team, but the work isn't finished yet."

Lacen played the full 120 minutes at the Estadio Beira-Rio, where Algeria looked like World Cup contenders, rather than knockout stage debutants.

In the end, they paid for missing a host of chances as Andre Schurrle and Mesut Ozil netted in extra time, meaning Abdelmoumene Djabou's goal at the death was merely a consolation.

It also meant they were not able to avenge the 1982 'Disgrace of Gijon' - when West Germany and Austria conspired to eliminate Algeria from the World Cup - yet they have made history and Lacen is excited about the future. "Ever since I started playing for my country, there was always a lot of talk about that previous generation," the Getafe midfielder said.

"It didn't really put pressure on us, but people were always drawing comparisons; before each match or tournament, the team and its achievements were always brought up.

"There was mention of (Rabah) Madjer, (Lakhdar) Belloumi, and Nourredine Kourichi, who's part of our staff here. It wasn't a burden, but it did crop up a lot.

"We need to be aware of their potential," he continued. "It's not by chance that we've put in some great performances and pushed Germany all the way."

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