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Soccer-Obama, Ferraris and criticism on Algeria coach's mind

Reuters

By Karolos Grohmann

BELO HORIZONTE, June 16 (Reuters) - Algeria coach Vahid Halilhodzic added a splash of colour to drab World Cup news conferences on Monday, talking about critics back home, slow Belgian defenders his team will face in their Group H game on Tuesday, and even U.S. President Barack Obama.

The Franco-Bosnian, whose team secured a spot in the tournament in Brazil after a 3-3 aggregate result against Burkina Faso and advanced on the away goals rule, said if Algeria did not want him, officials should tell him so.

The 61-year-old has had a tempestuous relationship with his employers that at times threatened a premature exit, much in the same way he lost his job before the 2010 World Cup after helping Ivory Coast qualify.

"I think I am the most criticised person in all of Algeria especially since we qualified," the former Yugoslavia international said.

"Some of it was fair but some of it was very unfair especially when they insulted my family. If they don't want me after the World Cup they should tell me."

"If it does not go very well some people are waiting for things to go wrong but let's wait and see, maybe we can create a little surprise. The more they attack me the stronger I am."

Algeria are making their second consecutive World Cup appearance and Halilhodzic said his team was prepared to face Belgium, who are the overwhelming favourites in the game.

"Sure, they are the favourites but favourites do not always win. (United States) President (Barack) Obama said 'yes we can', the famous sentence, yes we can, why not?"

The Algerians have a mountain to climb with Belgium featuring some of Europe's finest players but their defenders were slow, said the experienced coach who has also coached Ivory Coast and clubs in France, Turkey, and Croatia among other.

"Ok, let's just say their defenders are no Ferraris but the same goes for ours. Belgium have exceptional qualities and it has been said this is their best ever team," he said.

"We are going to suffer that we know already. We will suffer on all levels and I tell my boys that their suffering has to be at the highest level if you want to achieve something."

The coach was in good spirits, answering question after question before tournament officials repeatedly tried to end the news conference. He said Algeria could potentially stage another upset, similar to their biggest World Cup moment when they beat what was then West Germany at the 1982 World Cup.

"I know this is part of our past but we must see where we stand. I compare that kind of match then with the match against Belgium," he said.

"There are exceptional players in that (Belgian) team. If we can repeat that success it would be fantastic," he said. (Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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