Algeria coach warns no more small teams

Duty Calls. Cranes skipper Aucho vies for the ball with Mali’s Amadou Haidara (L). Belmadi is on the right.  PHOTOS/JOHN BATANUDDE

What you need to know:

  • Having also failed in the playoffs of the 2022 World Cup qualifiers, Belmadi now knows a clean sweep to Ivory Coast Afcon 2023 is his only saving grace.

Forty-two places separate Uganda and giants Algeria in the most recent Fifa World ranking. But the Fennec Foxes coach, Djamel Belmadi, warns his side against reading too much into that gap advantage as the Cranes prepare to travel to Algiers for June 4 Afcon 2023 qualifier against the hosts. 

The two-time African champions are pooled in Group F alongside Uganda, 116 ranked Niger and Tanzania (130), with the top two after six rounds of games qualifying automatically to Ivory Coast 2023.

Belmadi had been under mounting criticism following Algeria’s disastrous defence of their 2019 Afcon title in Cameroon in January, in which they finished bottom of Group E with only one point.

Having also failed in the playoffs of the 2022 World Cup qualifiers, Belmadi now knows a clean sweep to Ivory Coast Afcon 2023 is his only saving grace.

While the 46-old knows they are outright favourites of the group, he expects pool-mates to take the game to Algeria.

Nothing is guaranteed

“We are in qualifying Group C along with Uganda, Tanzania and Niger and as I have said before, everyone knows there are no small teams in Africa,” Belmadi told local news in Algiers.

“We could see this during the recent Africa Cup of Nations. We saw the group stage where all the teams, and especially big teams, seemed to struggle. “Let’s take as an example the eventual champions Senegal, with their first group win coming as a 1-0 victory over Zimbabwe following a 97th-minute penalty scored by Sadio Mane.  “They then drew 0-0 against Guinea and then also 0-0 against Malawi in their third group match.“

So everyone knows about how difficult matches against African teams are and the level of African players.” Belmadi rallied his players to conjure up the fighting spirit of yesteryears if they are to avoid any surprises in qualification.

“I invite other Algerian players who want to join me with the same state of mind, to come forward and compete for places in the team. “It is important for players to show their abilities on the international stage, provide the national team with further options and give me a selection headache.”

Fresh vibes on Cranes camp

Back home, Cranes coach Micho Sredojevic and his team continued training with general focus on gym work.

The Serbian added three England based players including Ibra Sekajja (Dulwich Harmlet),
Odokonyero Nathan (Bognor Regis) and Tirhys Luknyomoi (AFC Port Chester) in his squad for assessment.

He argued the trio were invited because they had a good season in their respective clubs. “If someone comes from England and is better than locally based players,” said Micho, “of course they succeed to be in the travelling squad to face Algeria and Niger.

“However in the same moment I need to say that we are happy that they are having desire to play for Uganda.

“But this is not enough. They need to prove their qualities in comparison with the rest of the players. We shall see who is best of the best.”

Cranes fixtures 

June 4: Algeria     vs.   Uganda
June 8: Uganda    vs.   Niger 
 


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