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Algeria switch captains for Slovenia clash

Last updated on: June 12, 2010 19:00 IST

Yebda to take over as captain



Algeria's coach Rabah Saadane has dropped his team captain for the opening World Cup clash with Slovenia on Sunday after a build-up marred by poor results, injuries and reports of dressing room discontent.

Saadane says captain Yazid Mansouri is not playing well enough to make the side and that Hassan Yebda will take his place in the centre of midfield. Defender Antar Yahia will take the captain's armband for the Group C match, to be played in the northeastern South African city of Polokwane.

"For any player, it is always difficult to explain to him, to make him understand he's lost his place due to competition," Saadane said in explaining his decision. "We must do it, even if it's painful."

The North Africans, appearing in the World Cup for the first time in 24 years, have had a poor build-up to the competition including 3-0 loses to both Serbia and the Republic of Ireland in friendlies.

This is the first time they have faced Slovenia, whose only previous appearance at the finals, in 2002, ended in three defeats.

Image: Yazid Mansouri
Photographs: Reuters

'We will cross that bridge when we come to it'

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Slovenia coach Matjaz Kek has to decide whether to field Zlatan Ljubijankic or Zlatko Dedic up front. Dedic scored the goal that secured Slovenia's World Cup berth in a 1-0 victory over Russia last year, but Ljubijankic has been in impressive form since then.

Whoever gets the nod - and Dedic is favourite - will start alongside Milivoje Novakovic with fellow striker Nejc Pecnik on the bench.

Pecnik acknowledged that, with tough matches against England and the United States to come, the Slovenians had to take all three points on Sunday to stand a chance of qualifying for the second round.

Asked whether his side could beat England to top the group, Pecnik said: "We will cross that bridge when we come to it because the top spot is England's to lose and we will be happy if we finish as runners-up."

Image: Matjaz Kek with Slovenian team

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All four teams figure in the top 30 of the FIFA rankings

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On paper at least, Group C should be one of the most evenly balanced. It is the only group in which all four teams figure in the top 30 of the FIFA rankings.

While Slovenia have yet to record a World Cup victory, Algeria do at least have some pedigree. The Desert Foxes will forever be remembered for their stunning 2-1 victory over reigning European champions West Germany in their opening match of the 1982 finals.

Sunday's clash will be refereed by a man who never expected to be here. Guatemalan Carlos Alberto Batres was drafted in as a late replacement for Chilean match official Pablo Pozo Quinteros, who injured himself on the eve of the tournament.

Image: England team during a practice session

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