Algeria eager to make up for lost time
England's World Cup rivals Algeria have one of Africa's most fascinating footballing histories, packed full, as it is, with passion, pedigree and political intrigue. But it is also irrevocably bound up with France.
This complex relationship has, at times, defined Algeria's independence, while also showing its lack of it. Plenty of Algerian talent has risen through French academies before going on to play for Les Bleus, as best exemplified by the great Zinedine Zidane.
But now a new generation of French-born Algerians has opted for the Desert Foxes.
Many would never have made any of French coach Raymond Domenech's squads but Madjid Bougherra, Nadir Belhadj, Mourad Meghni and Hassan Yebda all boast French youth caps, with Meghni and Yebda also winning the Under-17 World Cup in 2001.
Then there is centre-back Antar Yahia, who made history in 2004 as the first man to play for a senior national team that was different to the one he had represented at youth level.
The Algerian football federation had pushed Fifa hard for this rule change and were suitably rewarded when Yahia, whose parents emigrated from Algeria to France, just as Zidane's did in the 1950s, rifled home in the play-off with Egypt to secure an unforgettable qualification for the finals in South Africa.
Antar Yahia celebrates after Algeria beat Egypt to qualify for the World Cup
Largely thanks to its colonial control, France has been fielding Algerian-born footballers for decades, although the supply line of talent was dramatically interrupted in the mid-50s.
As their compatriots fought a bloody battle for independence, a courageous group of Europe-based Algerians shelved their professional careers to fight for their land - by playing football.
Monaco's Mustapha Zitouni and St Etienne's Rachid Mekloufi were shoo-ins for France's 1958 World Cup squad but opted to join the Front de Libération National (FLN) - the stuff of propagandist dreams - instead.
"The FLN team may be the best national XI Algeria ever had," writes Ian Hawkey in Feet of the Chameleon, his excellent tome on African football. "Played 91, won 65, drawn 13, lost 13. Goals For: 385. Goals Against: 127. That's some record for a team who never played a match at home."
Two decades after helping Algeria achieve independence in 1962, Mekloufi coached the Desert Foxes at their first World Cup. They beat the mighty West Germany 2-1 in their opening game only for the 'Shame Of Gijon' to deny them passage to the latter stages of the tournament.
Algeria's second - and last - World Cup four years later was less triumphant, picking up a solitary point against Northern Ireland. But they crowned their footballing heyday by winning their sole African Nations Cup on home soil in 1990.
The future was bright but violence intervened once again, the dark years of civil war and terrorism decimating the 90s and removing the building blocks of Algerian football, which had been underpinned by its close links with big businesses.
"When we started to come back after 2000, football had sunk really low. As our clubs no longer had any foundations, there were no more elite players," says national team coach Rabah Saadane.
Algeria coach Rabah Saadane talks to journalists at the team's training camp in Switzerland
"Luckily, we had our emigration so we started sourcing players who were Algerian by origin. Some had graduated from high-quality training centres in France and/or were playing for big clubs. Once we mixed them with our good local players, we had a team."
The last time Algeria played in the World Cup, also led by Saadane, their solitary goal came from a player called Zidane. Like his famous namesake, Djamel is a Kabyle, whose traditional homeland is Algeria's north east - where Zinedine's family come from.
And though born in the Marseille neighbourhood of La Castellane, France's 1998 World Cup-winning icon declares himself "first, a Kabyle from La Castellane, then an Algerian from Marseille, and then a Frenchman".
Which prompts the teasing question: could Zinedine Zidane - whose blood is 100% Algerian - be considered Africa's greatest footballer?
"Zidane and his parents remain deeply Algerian but, speaking honestly, his career would have been totally different if he'd played for Algeria because we were in such a trough at the time," adds Saadane.
Zinedine Zidane helped France win the World Cup in 1998
"He had to represent France to play at a higher level. It was excellent for him and for both France and Algeria because we are proud that an Algerian was able to become the best player in the world."
Algeria is clearly capable of producing top-quality players - as Rabah Madjer and Lakhdar Belloumi have also shown. However, until the arrival of local development centres, which the national federation says are coming, the best Algerian talent will continue to be reared in France.
And how Saadane's limited attack could do with a Samir Nasri or Karim Benzema in South Africa, all the more galling given their exclusion from Domenech's squad.