Saadane prepares for WCup, sets sight on future

Nicknamed "Sheikh," Algeria coach Rabah Saadane has pretty much become the soul of Algerian football. "It's a form of respect," Algeria captain Yazid Mansouri said of the nickname, which can mean elder, wise or master in Arabic. "He knows very well African football. That's why we managed to qualify for the World Cup. He's a good tactician."


Saadane has been involved in his country's three World Cup appearances -- he was Mahieddine Khalef's assistant in 1982 before coaching Algeria in 1986.


At club level, Saadane has also enjoyed some success, leading Raja Casablanca to the African Champions Cup title in 1989 and Entente Setif to victory in the 2007 Arab Champions League final.


In his fifth stint with the national team, Saadane will try to guide Algeria beyond the first round of the World Cup in South Africa. In Group C, Algeria will open against Slovenia on June 13 before taking on England on June 18 and the United States on June 23.


Saadane is an expert in man-management and Algerian fans hope that his human touch will again get the best out of the players.


"He's great for human relations," Mansouri said. "It's very important for a team to have a relationship with such a coach in order to progress. We can feel that he trusts us and that's very important for the players."


Algeria is back on the international stage after a 24-year absence at football's top competition. But just after securing qualification for this year's World Cup, Saadane designed a plan for the Algerian team to avoid another dark period.


"The main goal is to make the national team more consistent so that we can qualify for the next World Cup and next African Cup of Nations and so that we can work with a long-term perspective," Saadane said last December.


Saadane is currently in Europe scouting players who may join the squad, mainly because some regular starters are injured and may not be fit in time to play in South Africa. But another explanation for Saadane


"The idea behind that tour is to prepare for the post-World Cup period," Mansouri said.


Saadane already called up Racing Santander midfielder Mehdi Lacen for the friendly in March against Serbia.


With a bit of luck, Saadane may be able to find the players who could help fix some of the flaws exposed by Algeria at the recent African Cup of Nations in Angola, where the team conceded 10 goals in six matches while scoring just four.