No special plan for Belgium star Hazard, reveal Algeria

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Danger man: Eden Hazard heads into the World Cup after a stellar season for Chelsea.

Algeria revealed they have no plan to stop Belgium dangerman Eden Hazard ahead of their World Cup opener against one of the most talent-laden teams in the tournament.

Assistant coach Nourredine Kourichi said Belgium had too many other threats, including powerful striker Romelu Lukaku, to allow them to focus on the explosive Chelsea midfielder.

"If we focus on Eden Hazard, we could have some nasty surprises. We know his qualities but also his weak points, but we can't focus especially on him, there are others, like Lukaku," he said.

"We don't have a special plan against Hazard. We can mark and stop an opposing player with our own strategy."

Algeria are contesting their fourth World Cup but it is not since 1986, and the 1-1 draw with Northern Ireland, that they last scored in the tournament after going goalless at South Africa 2010.

But they remain mindful of their seismic 2-1 upset of Germany on their tournament debut in 1982 as they approach a team also blessed with Vincent Kompany, Marouane Fellaini and Adnan Januzaj.

"At that time, we were an under-developed country against the giants Germany who were champions of Europe," Kourichi said. "Everyone thought we would lose 5-0 or 6-0.

"That day, it was our technical quality that made the difference against the power of Germany."

He added: "You can't replace experience, but when you have the will, the recklessness and the talent, anything is possible. On Tuesday both teams have a chance, it's not a small team against a big team."

Said Belkalem, who plays for English second-tier side Watford, insisted Belgium were not even favourites for the game, citing the Netherlands' 5-1 upset of World Cup-holders Spain.

"Just look at Spain, who are the reigning world champions," he said. "They were favourites and they took a beating against the Netherlands.

"Belgium are a good team but we have will and the ability to cope."

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UAE’s England fans flock to XL Beach Club to watch Italy match

15/06/2014

The XL Beach Club was the place to be for England fans in Dubai on Saturday as football supporters flocked to the popular hang-out to watch the Three Lions take on Italy in their World Cup opener.

Unfortunately for the hundreds in attendance, it was the Italians who were celebrating victory at the final whistle, although everyone at XL clearly had a great night.

Here's a selection of images from Saturday night.

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Sport360° view: France need to fall back in love with World Cup

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Hard at work: France will be desperate to end their woeful World Cup run.

« Je t'aime, moi non plus » (I love you, me neither).

These lyrics from Serge Gainsbourg, one of the country's finest ever songwriters, might be the best depiction of the French national team's relationship with the World Cup as the team warms up for its opening game in the tournament against Honduras.

Les Bleus inherited a draw that will ease them into the competition with a first game against Honduras, who take part in their third ever World Cup and have just six players plying their trade in Europe (four of them in England).

Optimism prevails in the French side, despite losing their best player Franck Ribéry to a back injury last week and having a poor track record at this stage of the competition for more than a decade.

The French have won just one group stage game in the last three editions of the tournament, a 2-0 victory against Togo on June 23rd, 2006. All the rest, in Japan and South Korea in 2002, Germany in 2006 and South Africa in 2010, were either draws or losses.

The game against Wilson Palacios and his team-mates could see Les Bleus off to a positive start before taking on Switzerland, their main challengers for the top spot in Group E, in their second game.

Everything looks destined for the French to get out of their group after just two games and reach the knock-out phase with no weight of expectation from their home fans.

Gone are the days of Zidane and the legendary 1998 team that brought the country their first ever World Cup trophy (named after French-born FIFA administrator Jules Rimet). The talent which further graced every single part of the pitch in 2006 has made way to players everyone knows are good, but hardly great.

As a result, French football fans have learned not to get too ahead of themselves when it comes to their national team coming into a World Cup.

In 1998, an unfancied side led by much-maligned Aimé Jacquet won the tournament on home soil. In 2002 the title holders, who in the meantime had swept aside their continental rivals for a crown at Euro 2000, crashed out in the first round in atrocious fashion, losing their opening game to Bruno Metsu's Senegal.

In 2006, led by controversial coach Raymond Domenech (thought to select players based on their zodiac sign), Les Bleus barely made it out of their group after beating Togo and drawing against Switzerland and South Korea. And just as no one thought they would survive over an hour against Spain in the last 16, the team proceeded to beat not just the Roja, but also Brazil and Portugal to reach the final of the tournament where France narrowly lost to Italy on penalties.

Hopes were up again despite a poor showing at Euro 2008 and barely anyone could have predicted the terrible South African exit in 2010, when the side flew home with three defeats in their trail and a player strike protesting against the side's coaching staff.

Patrice Evra, Hugo Lloris and Karim Benzema were among those pelted by the French public opinion after the squad refused to train in support of excluded striker Nicolas Anelka in Knysna four years ago.

They have been selected in the 2014 squad, although Didier Deschamps has said the Manchester United left-back will never again captain the team under his tenure. The French public opinion is not expecting them, nor the rest of the team taking part in their first ever World Cup, to perform as well as their glorious predecessors. They simply request that the players give it their all and do not make themselves look foolish on the biggest stage.

The successive tenures of Raymond Domenech and Laurent Blanc proved fruitless in bringing a coherent structure to the squad. Just four players from the World Cup 2010 squad (thirteen from the Euro 2012 one) remain, as the bulk of Blanc's team has been reshaped to make way for talented youngsters ought to make the most impact in two years, when the country hosts the European Championships.

Players like Paul Pogba or Raphael Varane will presumably play a considerable part in their country's attempt to win a third continental trophy in 2016. Unfortunately, it also seems they will be tasked with carrying their side in this World Cup, such is the shortage of experienced players able to take on leadership roles in the France set-up.

Ribéry's injury has been compounded by injuries to Steve Mandanda and Clément Grenier, whilst Samir Nasri failed to make the cut as Didier Deschamps hinted the Manchester City midfielder may prove detrimental to the team atmosphere.

On paper, the side is short on talent if well-balanced, starting from Hugo Lloris who was one of Tottenham's most consistent players this season. His France record is however less impressive and the son of wealthy Monaco-based parents (father a banker, mother a lawyer) may need to show off the more agressive side of his personality to bring parallels to the eccentricity of Fabien Barthez a decade ago.

At the back, players like Varane or Digne are outstanding prospects who are yet to find their feet with their respective clubs. The lack of experience of Sakho or Debuchy next to them is hardly made up for by Patrice Evra, whose performances with Manchester United are on a definitive ebb.

The solidity of Marcel Desailly, William Gallas, Lilian Thuram or Willy Sagnol is but a sweet memory for a France side whose best performer at club level this season, Laurent Koscielny with Arsenal, is expected to start the campaign a substitute.

In midfield, Pogba is the only player who would have clearly walked into the 2006 squad as players of Matuidi's or Valbuena's calibre are yet to make an impact on the European stage.

Up front, Karim Benzema has enjoyed a prolific season with Real Madrid with 24 goals in all competitions. However, his France form has been up-and-down as the striker experienced a 16-month drought for the national team, failing to score between June 2012 (a brace against Estonia) and October 2013 in a friendly against Australia.

As the side departed France with a glaring 8-0 win over Jamaica, he reassured himself with two goals as his main rival for a starting spot in attack, Olivier Giroud, also attracted the interest of outside observers.

Giroud's performances have led to speculation that the Arsenal forward will replace Ribéry in the starting eleven, with Benzema drifting to the left wing to make way for the former Montpellier man to act as a target man.

With no clear first eleven and no real leader on the pitch, it is altogether difficult to picture France reaching the heights of 1998 or even 2006.

However, if World Cup 2010 proved one thing, it is that the French do not need a welter of gifted individuals to perform, as much as a sensible coach and positive team atmosphere. Which is exactly why we might witness another trumping of expectations from Les Bleus in the coming days and weeks.

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