There had been much discussion in the run up to England’s friendly against Egypt earlier on this year about the north African side’s shape and similarities to England’s group opponents Algeria at the World Cup this summer. Jonathan Wilson made a number of useful observations as to how a 3-5-2 style system could unpick a side fielding a 2-man attack. Yesterday evening however Algeria threw their group C opponents a curve ball by fielding a back four.
Algeria turned up against Ireland playing what resembled a very lopsided 4-3-3 or a 4-3-1-2.The first comment to be made on this line up is the position of Portsmouth left back Nadir Belhadj, the left footed full back/winger was playing in an advanced position on the left hand side. It was difficult to pick out whether he could be considered part of a midfield four or a front three. Behind him Mesbah was making his international debut was playing a slightly unorthodox left wing-back role. He plays as a winger for his club, Lecce in Italian Serie B, so he was very keen to get as far forward as possible and this saw he and Belhadj rampaging up the left flank.
Algeria’s right hand flank looked barren throughout the entire game. Right back Guediourra sat back to cover the marauding runs of his left footed counterparts. He was able to get forward on a couple of occasions but lacked the same drive as Mesbah on the left. More worryingly for Algeria during this game was the lack of cover and support afforded to their right back. With no wide right sided midfielder there was acres of space for Cunningham and Duff on the Irish left flank to outnumber and attack the full back.
Despite the attacking intent of the two left sided players much of the attacking work was left to Karim Ziani of Wolfsburg. He had to cover lots of ground, starting from the centre of midfield and working out to the right to create the illusion of width on the right hand side. He was unable to create any clear cut chances for Algeria’s two fairly static strikers, Djebbour and Ghezzal, and the shot count illustrated this as Algeria had only two shots on target.
Defensively Algeria were all at sea, they had every intention of pressing high up the pitch but only half the team appear to have been informed. They held an offside line which was just outside the centre circle for much of the game but their midfielders and forwards were not putting sufficient pressure on the ball. This left them open to some very well timed long passes over the top onto the heads of Doyle and Keane upfront.
Their marking was also suspect and England can look to take advantage of this. Algeria look to man mark at set pieces but they were far too tight against Ireland last night, they failed to give themselves space to react to any movement. The first goal was the culmination of both of these errors, Ireland took a free kick 24-25 yards out from goal and the Algeria offside line was placed just inside the 18 yard box. They left far too much space to attack between themselves and the goal and Ireland took advantage.
The biggest problem the Algerians had was the lack of communication and coordination in their already high and dangerous offside line. England general manager Franco Baldini was at the game and would have been very happy with what he saw. England should be licking their lips at the prospect of facing this Algeria side, if they can keep Ziani and Belhadj quiet there will be plenty of space to attack the full backs and split their centre backs.