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Algeria confident in matchup with U.S.

Algeria has no fear of the United States at the World Cup.

Algeria’s surprising 0-0 draw with England saved it from becoming the first team to exit the World Cup. Now the north Africans are targeting a win over the Americans and a spot in the next round.

“If Algeria plays to its potential we don’t need to worry about our opponents,” midfielder Karim Matmour said Sunday. “If we play our style of football we can beat anyone.”

Algeria, with only one point in Group C, must beat the United States on Wednesday in Pretoria, South Africa, for any chance of advancing to the World Cup’s knockout stage for the first time. England plays Slovenia at the same time in the tight group’s other match.

Slovenia leads the group with four points, followed by the United States and England with two points apiece.

Matmour knows it will be tough against a higher-ranked U.S. team – 14th for the Americans, 30th for the Algerians. The U.S. team salvaged a 1-1 draw against England and then rallied from 2-0 down at halftime against Slovenia for a 2-2 draw.

Algerian teams in the past have featured highly skilled players who did not play well together, and that has hurt them against superior teams.

Now, veteran coach Rabah Saadane has honed the combinations.

“I play for the team. That is every player’s job,” Matmour said. “Today’s football is very physical. Skill is just for the final meters.”

But the Desert Foxes will need to turn on the skill when they get within range. They have yet to score at this World Cup, losing 1-0 to Slovenia before the 0-0 draw with England.

Even so, Matmour said the players are drawing confidence from their run at the African Cup of Nations earlier this year. They lost their first match, but recovered to get to the semifinals, where they lost to eventual champion Egypt.

Medhi Lacen, a midfielder who plays for Racing Santander in Spain, said he knew little about the United States before the tournament, but has been impressed by its fortitude so far.

“I’ve seen their matches here and they look good,” he said. “They showed against Slovenia that they’re capable of fighting back.”

Algeria showed it can handle the pressure of must-win matches when it exacted revenge for its African Cup semifinal defeat by beating Egypt 1-0 in a highly charged one-match playoff in Sudan to reach the World Cup for the first time in 24 years.

And it will attempt to do it again in Pretoria – as a team.

“Our strength is playing collectively,” captain Anther Yahia said. “We know if we don’t play as a team we can’t win.”

France players protest

A draw, a loss, a tantrum and now chaos for Les Bleus.

France’s World Cup team refused to train Sunday in protest of striker Nicolas Anelka’s expulsion from the squad, prompted by a profanity-laced tirade against coach Raymond Domenech the day before.

The latest round of turbulence also led to the resignation of France team director Jean-Louis Valentin, who said he was fed up with the team.

“It’s a scandal for the French, for the young people here. It’s a scandal for the federation and the French team,” Valentin said. “They don’t want to train. It’s unacceptable.”

Before getting in a car and driving off, he added: “As for me, it’s over. I’m leaving the federation. I’m sickened and disgusted.”

Tensions boiled over after the team arrived at training and got off the bus to greet about 200 fans who had gathered there. Domenech, whose tactics and management skills have been questioned, stayed on the bus to talk to France captain Patrice Evra.

Meanwhile, fitness coach Robert Duverne was on the field putting down training cones. After Domenech and Evra got off the bus, Evra and Duverne started to argue. Domenech tried to intervene, but Duverne then stormed off, throwing his accreditation down the field.

“Everyone in the whole world is mocking us now,” winger Franck Ribery said on television hours before training even started. “I’m gutted, because we’re not playing football any more.”

Afterward, Domenech read a statement he said was written by the players to explain their protest:

“The French Football Federation did not at any time try to protect the group. They took a decision uniquely based on facts reported by the press. As a consequence and to show our opposition to the decision taken by officials of the federation, all the players decided not to take part in today’s training session.”

Death threats

The Nigerian team has asked its government to provide security for midfielder Sani Kaita after his red card during a World Cup loss to Greece prompted more than 1,000 death threats.

Nigeria team spokesman Idah Peterside said Kaita has received the death threats via e-mail from Nigeria ever since he was sent off for kicking out at Greece’s Vassilis Torosidis in the 33rd minute of Thursday’s 2-1 loss at Bloemfontein.

“We just hope that the government will treat these threats as a serious matter,” Peterside told The Associated Press on Sunday.

Security has been increased around the Nigerian team’s base in Durban, but Peterside doesn’t believe the team is under any serious threat while in South Africa.

“We have enough security in South Africa and we are not worried about the player’s safety here,” he said.

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