Belmadi: "In Africa, there are no longer small teams"

Djamel Belmadi, head coach of Algeria during the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations Finals Semifinal football match between Algeria and Nigeria at the Cairo International Stadium, Cairo, Egypt on 14 July 2019 ©Gavin Bark

Algeria coach Djamel Belmadi was cautious about the draw for the TotalEnergies Africa Cup of Nations, Cameroon 2021. Reigning African champions, the Algerians will play in Douala in the group E along with Sierra Leone, Equatorial Guinea and Elephants of Côte d'Ivoire.

Careful, Djamel Belmadi gave his first impressions of the draw.

"It's a group with obviously a big one from Africa, namely Côte d'Ivoire" he said. "It's a very strong team that needs no introduction. We faced them in the quarter-finals of AFCON 2019 and everyone saw the match. Of course, Algeria and Côte d'Ivoire are the favorites of this group, ahead of Sierra Leone and Equatorial Guinea. But, you have to know that there are no longer small teams in Africa. There is always a surprise. We must be ready and vigilant. We should not take things lightly, otherwise we risk going by the wayside. We must prepare well to approach this AFCON as it should be and try to achieve the best possible result ”.

Samuel Eto’o draws Algeria at the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) Draw at the Palais de Congress Hall in Yaounde, Cameroon on 17 August 2021 ©Alain Guy SuffoBackpagePix

Regarding the opponents, Côte d'Ivoire is an old acquaintance since the two teams have already met eight times in the final tournament of the Africa Cup of Nations. The Algerians won two games, the Ivorians three, and the other three ended in draws. Sierra Leone is less well known among Algerians. Only one meeting opposed the two teams in the final tournament of the African Cup. It was in the 1996 edition in South Africa with a victory for the Desert Foxes by two goals to nil thanks to a brace from Ali Meçabih. Finally, it will be the first confrontation with Equatorial Guinea.

In very high level competitions it is always very difficult to chain the titles. We all saw what happened to reigning world champions France at Euro 2020 where they were eliminated in the round of 16. Djamel Belmadi

For Djamel Belmadi, it is very difficult to follow up with a second success in a row, a second consecutive African consecration. He gives the example of France at Euro 2020 where they were eliminated in the round of 16, despite their status as world champions.

Ditto for Germany who left the 2018 World Cup in the first round, after winning the 2014 World Cup: "But we will do everything to hope to live up to our status and continue to bring joy to Algerian people. We have also experienced this. We had a good World Cup in 2014 in Brazil with a place in the round of 16, but then we suffered. There were weak moments and disillusionment. We will ensure that we achieve a good participation ".

group E Afcon

A speech resembling that held by Belmadi during the previous AFCON. As the matches progressed, Algeria presented the profile of a champion, which Belmadi always refused, until the consecration. It must also be said that in Africa, there is Egypt which has won three titles in a row (2006, 2008 and 2010) in addition to Cameroon (2000 and 2002).

Until then, Djamel Belmadi prefers to focus on the Greens' next two outings, in the second round of the qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, which will kick off next September, with two games on the program: September 2 against Djibouti in Blida, and September 7 against Burkina Faso in Marrakech in Morocco.

“At the moment, we are not there yet. We will have two important games to play in September in the World Cup qualifiers. We have to prepare well for these two games to get as many points as possible. Then we'll see what can happen. Our priority now is to make a successful debut in September. After that, we will have other games in October and finally two other games in November. We will have to finish first in our group. Once this phase is over, we can look at the Africa Cup of Nations ".