Rabah Saadane faces a real selection headache as he whittles down his Algeria squad for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™. With just a few weeks to go before he names his 23-man pool for the world finals, Saadane has still to decide whether to hand the No1 jersey to Lounes Gaouaoui or Faouzi Chaouchi.
With doubts surrounding both custodians, the 64-year-old tactician has a tough choice between the cool-headed, experienced yet ageing Gaouaoui and the more youthful but irascible Chaouchi. Saadane’s dilemma is one his predecessors have also faced. Whereas the Desert Foxes have often been spoilt for choice in other positions, they have struggled to unearth genuinely reliable keepers on a regular basis.
That does not mean to say Algeria have not had some fine custodians over the years. Mahdi Cerbah, Nasreddine Drid and Laarbi Elhadi have all acquitted themselves well in the position. Nevertheless it can be argued that in terms of goalkeeping talent, Algeria has always lagged behind other African nations such as Cameroon, Egypt and Morocco.
The position looks set to be problematic once again at South Africa 2010, although Chaouchi can at least point to his heroic performance in the play-off match against Egypt, when he stepped in for the suspended Gaouaoui and kept the Pharoah strikers at bay with a string of quality stops.
However, the excitable shot-stopper undid all his good work at the CAF African Cup of Nations in Angola earlier this year, appearing to aim a head-butt at referee Coffi Codjia in the Desert Foxes’ semi-final defeat to the Egyptians and receiving a lengthy ban as a result. Despite his indiscretion, Chaouchi was in the list of 25 players on Saadane’s pre-World Cup roster.
Yet, the unsavoury incident has only intensified doubts about the ES Setif keeper’s lack of experience and his temperament, which could cost his team dear in the pressurised environment of a FIFA World Cup finals and have serious long-term consequences for his international career.