In 1993,it was “operation desert storm” as Algeria stood against Nigeria’s world cup dream. A George Finidi goal was all Nigeria needed as the Super Eagles battled their foe to a 1-1 draw to qualify for her maiden world cup appearance in USA 1994.Today in Cairo,the Fennecs again stand against the aspiration of Nigeria to be in the AFCON final. Algeria on paper are the best team so far in the tournament scoring a total of 10 goals with a defence breached just once in the quarter final against Ivory Coast, the Fennecs are therefore brimming with confidence ahead of the cracker with Nigeria.
The defensive outlay marshalled by Aissa Mandu of RC Lens and Djamel Benlamri( Al-Shabab) ,shielded by the veteran Adlene Guedioura is expected to hold the Nigerian onslaughts. Attacking wise,Mahrez is a world class player and he is thus expected to give the Nigerian defence a sleepness night. He is to be complemented by Yacine Brahimi (FC Porto) ,Sofiane Feghouli( Galatasaray)
and Baghdad Bounedjah (Al-Sadd). Algeria also has a fairly rich bench to rely on when things go awry as witnessed in the quarter final when Nice defender Yousef Atal got injured and was replaced by Zeffane who did well. They also have Adam Ounas of Napoli to call to use his ability to dribble past couple of players thereby creating chances for his team mates to wreck havoc. The last time Algeria won the AFCON was at home in 1990 when they defeated the Nigeria by a lone goal in the final. It would be recalled that Algeria had earlier in the group games thrashed Nigeria 5-1 in the same competition. They are therefore thirsty for a triumph after 29 years! This was much reiterated by their coach Djamel Belmadi who said ” we’ve never won since…this is our target, we want to write history and the players want to write their history as well”.
For Nigeria, the Gernhot Rohr’s assembled team has continued to improve in every game so far in the tournament. The beauty of this team is the ability of any player on the field to score goals. It would be recalled that Troost-Ekong gave the Eagles a late goal against South Africa. His defensive partner ,Omeruo had scored the only goal against Guinea in the group stage. Thus, the Algerians really have a lot to do keeping the Eagles attacking forays at bay. Whiz kid, Chukwueze will be expected to continue his impressive display by ghosting past the Algerians defence . Our defence is capable of limiting the damage likely to be posed by Mahrez and co.
Coach Rohr clearly had departed from our traditional pattern of play
which is offensive and charming that allowed the likes of Okocha and KANU to show their sleek and dribbling skills. Nonetheless, Rohr has been able to mould a team with better organisation based on defensive stability and efficient use of the ball as against possession based pattern. One unnoticed trait about this team is its ability to get a goal when in serious need. This was more accentuated against Cameroon and South Africa.
Nigeria are clear favourites for the final and as such ,we have nothing to fear against Algeria. In the last qualifying matches to the 2018 world cup in Russia, Nigeria humbled Algeria 3-1 in Uyo,that was when the latter was No.1 in Africa.Though we lost second leg,but it was inconsequential as the Eagles had already booked their place in the mundial. Overall, the two teams have equal pie of the cake in 3 wins and 2 draws. At present, Nigeria is ranked 3rd in Africa while Algeria is out of the top 10.
The match promises to be cracker as both teams possess enough qualities to punish any laxity. The Super Eagles however are tipped to make it to the final as we have the antecedents in our favour and we possess better players in most departments of the pitch. Benlamri plays for Al-Shabab in Saudi Arabia while Bounedjah plays for Al-Saad in Qatar. We expect these quality differences to help the Eagles scale through to the final. Anything short of this will be disastrous! We wish the Eagles the best of luck tonight in Cairo,Egypt.