With games against England and USA to come for these two teams in Group C, Algeria and Slovenia know that points dropped against each other on Sunday in Polokwane may have a significant impact on their chances of reaching he knockout stages.
Algeria, who qualified at the expense of arch-rivals Egypt, have had a difficult build-up, losing friendly matches to Serbia and the Republic of Ireland – 3-0 in both matches.
Coach Rabah Saadane has also indicated that captain Yazid Mansouri is not fit enough to start against the Slovenians, which has prompted speculation that the player stormed out of the camp. Experienced Bochum defender Anther Yahia is expected to deputise as skipper.
“Our goal is clear, we need to have honour with our behaviour on and off the pitch, we need to represent Algerian football, Maghreb football, African football and also Arab football, said Saadane. “
We have nothing to lose, we can only win. We will give everything during every game and at the end of the group stage we will see what our level is and what we have learnt.”
Scoring goals is clearly a major problem for Algeria. Strikers Rafik Saifi and Abdelkader Ghezzal have failed to deliver but the coach has little option but so to stick with them
Slovenia, meanwhile, enjoyed a smooth preparation, defeating Qatar and New Zealand in pre-tournament friendlies.
Surprise qualifiers, they reached the finals by finishing second behind Slovakia in a difficult group and then beating Russia in a two-legged play-off.
It was a remarkable achievement for a nation of just 2 million people, and where football is not even the main winter sport.
Coach Matjaz Kek said at the time: “It’s very important for the whole country. Our nation has only existed for 20 years and every win in sport can help make sure that people around the world have heard of us.”
Slovenia will be led by Robert Koren, who is joined in midfield by left-winger Valter Birsa of Auxerre and Andraz Kirm of Wisla Krakow. Up front is 30-year-old Cologne striker Milivoje Novakovic who averages a goal every other game at this level. He is supported by Zlatko Dedic, of German side Bochum, who ensured iconic status back home when he scored the winner against Russia.
“We are all concentrating on the work in hand, and to be as prepared as possible for the following matches, so we play even better than we did against Russia. Because I think that we are able to play even better, and, as I said before, that there is more to come from us,” said striker Zlatko Dedic.
Algeria (probable): Gaouaoui; Halliche, Bougherra, Yahia, Masbah; Boudebouz, Lacen, Yebda, Ziani; Djebbour, Matmour
Slovenia (probable): Handanovic; Brecko, Cesar, Suler, Jokic; Kirm, Radosavljevic, Koren, Birsa; Dedic, Novakovic.