|Algerians like their flags large|
"The principal objective is to not be ridiculous"
Rabah Saadane, Algeria manager
The "Desert Foxes" are a team of largely French-born exiles - but never has an équipe of outsiders been loved with such pride and such passion. And, quaint though it may seem, only one thing matters to Algerian fans and players: being there. "What a privilege to be on the same pitch as England", says Foued Kadir, the Algerian midfielder who turns out for Valenciennes: "Lampard, Rooney, Gerrard – I watch them on tv and now I can’t believe I’ll be playing against them!"
There is little analysis in the Algerian press about the chances of Ziani, Bougherra and the boys in green but mention two subjects – the French coach and a coach in Cairo - and vooomph! the street cafés light up. According to a headline in Le Soir d’Algérie, "Domenech n’aime pas les Algériens".
The proof? He left Benzema and Nasri out of the French squad. And the Egyptians? During the combustible qualifier between the Rats and the Pharaohs last November, the Algerian team bus was stoned by a gang of locals. FIFA has just announced its "timides sanctions" against the Egyptian FA and the whole of Algiers is crying its favourite phrase: It’s a plot! It’s this fierce, often paranoid, closing of the ranks that could just leave "Mister Capello" looking faintly ridiculous on June 18.