PREVIEW: Algeria vs. Nigeria
The Super Eagles of Nigeria will be gunning for an 8th appearance at the final of the Africa Cup of Nations when they square up to the Desert Foxes of Algeria at the Cairo International Stadium on Sunday night.
The explosive encounter will be the 20th meeting between both sides and the Eagles have the edge on the head-to-head record with 9 wins while 4 games have ended in stalemates.
Even with being recency bias, the Eagles have notably avoided defeat to Algeria in their last nine clashes with the North Africans’ last win dating back to 1990.
However, the Desert Foxes have been unsurprisingly touted as the best team in this AFCON so far following their flawless run in the group phase and their emphatic 3-0 win over Guinea in the Round of 16.
It was only against Ivory Coast in the quarter-final last Thursday that they conceded a goal and failed to win in regulation time during the ongoing competition. Notably, a 4-3 win in the penalty shootout earned them the semi-final berth.
The Eagles meanwhile have been growing from strength to strength in their campaign as well and will no doubt pose a big challenge for the flying North African side.
In the pre-match press conference on Saturday, Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr admitted his opponents are quite solid with brilliant tactical discipline, but believes his side can go all the way with specific reference to their performances against Cameroon and South Africa in the knockout phase.
“Algeria have improved with each game and now are very balanced tactically,” Rohr stated.
“I trust my players and just as against South Africa & Cameroon, I hope we can win. But we must be cautious and clinical with any chances we get.
“Both teams have the same advantage inspite of the extra day rest we’ve had. The Algeria team have very good players with many playing in France. They’re a solid side.
“Tomorrow will be about winning and I hope we can win,” the gaffer concluded.
Algeria coach Djamel Belmad stated that his team is fully fit for Sunday’s game despite having only two days since their quarter-final encounter to rest, recover and train.
The tactician also highlighted the importance of the Nigeria clash, stating it is the first of two steps towards clinching their second ever continental title.
“We played two days ago but we have tried to recover in time for the game,” said Belmad.
“It’s a semifinal and we must be well prepared much more than normal. Defensively, we have to be on top of our game for the match tomorrow. We will not divulge our tactical plans here.
“The semifinal is an equal stage for all teams. There are no favourites and we are all on equal footing.
“We won the AFCON last in 1990 at home & it’s become more difficult. The set of players who won in 1990 are legends but we want to write our own history but there are two steps and we will try our best to beat Nigeria tomorrow.”
The match will kick-off by 8pm Nigerian tine on Sunday night.
- Shehu Abdullahi’s fitness is still a concern for the Eagles and it’s most likely that he will yet play no part in Sunday’s game.
- Ahmed Musa and Odion Ighalo, who both picked up knocks in the Eagles last game versus South Africa, have now been passed fit as the duo took part in Saturday’s final training session.
- Captain John Obi Mikel returned to training ahead the Algeria game and may be considered for selection.
- Meanwhile, Algeria first-choice right back Youcef Atal has been ruled out of the tournament following the collarbone fracture he incurred in the Ivory Coast clash.
HEAD TO HEAD
19 Games Played | 9 Nigeria Wins | 4 Draws | 6 Algeria Wins