Algeria ready for Egypt showdown

KHARTOUM - Algeria's players are fully fit and "ready for the war" with Egypt in neutral Sudan on Wednesday when the two teams chase the final African place in the 2010 World Cup, defender Madjid Bougherra said.

After their last match was marred by violence on Saturday in Cairo and with thousands of fans flying in from Algeria and Egypt to see Wednesday's match, a massive security operation has been mounted in Khartoum with 15,000 police on the streets.

"The full team is ready... for the war," Algerian Bougherra, who plays for Rangers in the Scottish Premier League, told Reuters while laughing. "Every player is okay."

He said VfL Bochum defender Antar Yahia would play after doubts he might miss the match because of a thigh injury.

Egypt coach Hassan Shehata, whose side kept alive their hopes of reaching the finals in South Africa thanks to Emad Moteab's header five minutes into stoppage time on Saturday, said he planned to switch tactics on Wednesday.

"(In Cairo) we had to win by two goals so we focussed on attacking," Shehata told reporters. "For the next match we need a totally different tactic because we will be on an equal footing."

Three Algerian players suffered facial cuts when their bus was stoned on their arrival in Cairo last week.

Attacks on Algerian supporters after Saturday's match left 20 injured and Egyptian businesses suffered extensive damage when vandalised in Algiers on Sunday.

There was also rioting in Marseille, where French youths of Algerian origin went on the rampage.

"Some people had mental (problems), it was very rough, we were afraid - some people were injured," said Bougherra.

But he said the around 9,000 fans due to arrive from Algeria had given them the confidence boost they needed.

"We are confident, we feel comfortable - all recovered," he added.

The capacity at the Al Merreikh Stadium for Wednesday's game has been reduced to 35,000 from its usual 41,000 by FIFA, Sudan Football Association officials said.

Algeria's sport minister Hachemi Djiar urged fans to focus on the game.

"This is sport, football and not war. This meeting will be for 90 minutes only but the relationship between the countries will continue," he told Reuters.

Algeria and Egypt are seeking to return to the finals after a long hiatus. Egypt last qualified in 1990 and Algeria in 1986.