Algeria coach doesn’t blame blundering players

Asssociated Press Writer

Algeria lost its World Cup opener against Slovenia on Sunday after costly mistakes by substitute striker Abdelkader Ghezzal and goalkeeper Fawzi Chaouchi, but coach Rabah Saadane did not blame either player.

Ghezzal’s second yellow card left his team with 10 players from the 74th minute. Six minutes later, Chaouchi misjudged Slovenia captain Robert Koren’s 25-meter shot and let in the goal.

That makes it difficult for Algeria to advance from Group C, which also includes England and the United States.

“He (Ghezzal) was mentally not in control at that moment but this is what happens in football,” Saadane said. “I don’t blame him, nor our ‘keeper. It’s all part of our development. We are still in a learning curve.”

Ghezzal, the French-born Siena striker who first played for Algeria in November 2008, came on in the 58th minute for his 20th international appearance to bring extra power up front.

One minute later, Ghezzal was booked for a reckless challenge. Referee Carlos Batres of Guatemala didn’t hesitate to show him a second yellow card after Ghezzal stretched his right arm to a cross that was too high for a header.

“We always handle these kind of situations as a team. We have played a lot of matches with some (injured) key players missing,” Saadane said. “It’s always a collective responsibility to respond well to such situations.”

Ghezzal is now ruled out of Algeria’s match against England in Cape Town on Friday, but Chaouchi could retain his spot.

“The whole team played up to its best, including the goalkeeper,” Saadane said. “The goalkeeper said sorry to the team after the match. That’s normal. He is a great goalkeeper and one to be watched for the future.”

Saadane said the morale of his team won’t be affected by the pair’s mistakes.

“If you get to the World Cup for the first time in 24 years, you have just to be happy to be here,” he said. “I am very satisfied with the match as the team gave its maximum. That’s what I was hoping for so I won’t moan about individual mistakes.”

Saadane acknowledged that his team’s chances to reach the next round have now severely diminished.

“Things are pretty clear,” he said. “We know we still have a problem with effectiveness and that’s what counts in football at world-class level.”