Elephants face a tough Fennecs challenge

Wilfried Zaha of Ivory Coast during the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations match between Namibia and Ivory Coast at the 30 June Stadium, Cairo on the 01 July 2019 ©Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

On paper, it’s an open contest between Cote d’Ivoire Elephants and Algeria’s Les Fennecs. . Yje battle of the quarter final sees two previous champions locking horns on Thursday (11 July 2019) in Suez. The bets are open to the advantage of Algeria while Cote d’Ivoire does not seem to have said its last word.

In the third quarterfinal of the Total Africa Cup of Nations Egypt 2019, Les Fennecs of Algeria enter the game as favorites and their results speak for themselves. They achieved a flawless run by placing four wins on as many games with nine goals scored for zero conceded. Given this observation and just before the quarter-finals matches, Algeria is considered by many pundits as the best team of this AFCON so far.

On the other hand, Les Elephants of Cote d’Ivoire advance is a doubt. They started with a difficult 1-0 win over South Africa, lost by the same score to Morocco before producing their best performance in the 4-1 over Namibia. In the round of 16 against Mali, they were shaken for a long time before triumphing by a lone goal. Never mind, this Ivorian formation is still alive and is now targeting the final four.

Algeria Team picture during the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations Finals Tanzania and Algeria at Al Salam Stadium, Cairo, Egypt on 01 July 2019 ©Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

And these are two formations that know each other well for having met seven times in AFCON finals and it started at the 1968 edition. At this level, it is the Elephants who have the upper hand with three successes against two for Les Fennecs and two draws. But, the reality is different today.

Algeria presents a complete and solid team on all lines. It has a very solid defense that has not yet cracked with a midfield where Adlane Guedioura, the handyman, defeats a titanic job supported by Captain Ryad Mahrez who knows how to vary the game, while Baghdad Bounedjah weighs a lot about the opposing defenses. The strength of Les Fennecs also lies in the depth of his bench where the young Adam Ounas, Islam Slimani or Andy Delort are able to do as much as the starters.

Meanwhile, Côte d'Ivoire has shortcomings in its defense corridors who are lacking offensive inspiration. They must often resort to the individual qualities of their attackers who do not succeed all the time.

But in knockout games, nothing is won in advance. And previous games have noted that there are teams that improve as the competition progresses. And favorite teams have paid the price.

What they said

Ibrahim Kamara (Coach, Cote d’Ivoire)

We are always in the same state of mind that is fighting. Algeria is in a dynamism that any coach would like to have. This does not mean that there is no unbeatable team. We came with a team to give them competition while recognizing that there are some things at our level that we need to improve. Given the statistics, Algeria is a good team but, this does not scare us since each team comes with its qualities. For those who mention our 3-1 victory against Algeria in 2015, I say that many things have changed four years later. We will see if we will repeat this feat again.

Max Alain Gradel (Forward, Cote d’Ivoire)

Since the beginning of the competition, Algeria has shown that it is a strong team in defense as well as in attack. We will see what the game will give and we will know if it will be able to repeat its previous matches. The most important thing in a football match is to win to advance. There are teams that have played better and they are no longer there. The mood is good in the group and we are calm and ready for the game.

Djamel Belmadi (Coach, Algeria)

Cote d’Ivoire is one of the favorites of this competition and has an AFCON past with two titles. I do not fit into the aspects of favorite. We will not worry, but the most important thing is to be solidly defensive so as not to cash in. To my players, I will say distrust and confidence and we will not complain about not having a goal and for that, you have to be solid. There is no concern if we cash the first goal as our team has the mental resources to return.

Hicham Boudaoui (Midfielder, Algeria)

I am satisfied with the course of our team even though I do not hold. Playing against Ivory Coast is a pride. And this encourages us to always do better against these experienced teams. We have the desire and the will to beat the Ivory Coast to qualify us. Our coach is doing a very good job while not making any difference between it and it is who makes it the esteem of the players.