Defending champions Algeria hope to make up for their humble beginnings by meeting Equatorial Guinea in the African Cup of Nations on Sunday, while Tunisia, injured in Corona, hope to compensate for their loss against Mali, witness of a scandal of ‘arbitration.
Despite the disappointing goalless draw against Sierra Leone, the ‘Desert Warriors’ extended their streak to 35 games in a row without losing, a record for an African team, two games behind Italy’s world record (37) , as they kicked off this astonishing run by beating hosts Togo 4-1 in November 2018.
Algeria, led by Manchester City star Riyad Mahrez and talented Youssef Belaili, were seen as the hottest candidate to retain their title before the start of the 33rd edition of the continental championship, but their group are currently led by the strong Ivory Coast after their victory over Equatorial Guinea with a magnificent goal from Max Allan-Gradil, knowing that the champion and the vice-champion of each two groups qualify for the round of 16, the four best teams occupying the third place.
Before facing Sierra Leone, the Ivorian player Serge Aurier confirmed that the “elephants” team will try to “solve the qualification in the second round, then will face Algeria in the third round in a great festive meeting”, noting that each team that reaches the sixth point will guarantee its qualification.
With the need to beat Equatorial Guinea before the top game against Ivory Coast at the end of their group stage campaign, Algeria coach Djamel Belmadi expressed his confidence in his attackers, Baghdad Bounedjah and Islam Slimani.
“I have a lot of confidence in Bounedjah, despite his quickness to score, and in Soleimani. I don’t just ask strikers to score, but to concentrate and deal with the pressure of matches, and sometimes the striker does all the work he is asked to do but does not score, but with work and self-confidence, the striker overcomes,” he said at a press conference.
Belmadi, who led his country to the 2019 title in Egypt after the first in 1990, revealed the absence of his players Adam, Nas and Ramez Razouki due to illness.
Regarding the bad pitch at the Jaboma stadium in Douala, he added: “You have to deal with the surface of the pitch. I’m not saying it’s catastrophic, but a competition of the magnitude of the Africa Cup requires better ground, and there are stadiums in Cameroon with good ground compared to the Jaboma stadium.”
Tunisia after the scandal
Tunisia face one hurdle after another. After a refereeing scandal in their opening match, which they lost to Mali, they will face Mauritania on Sunday after six of their players were infected by Corona virus.
On Friday, the Tunisian Federation announced that 22 players attended the exercises, “where Osama Al-Hadadi, Naim Al-Saliti, Yohan Tozgar, Muhammad Dragher, Issam Al-Jabali and Dylan Brun were isolated after being confirmed infected with the corona virus.”
Al Celiti and Brune were key players and Tozgarh was a substitute in the game against Mali, in which captain Wahbi Khazri missed a penalty.
“The game against Mauritania will not be easy in such difficult circumstances, said Tunisian player Bilal Al-Aifa. We must remain focused and present. We know Mauritania’s strengths and weaknesses.”
Tunisia and Mali’s confrontation witnessed a bizarre incident and a controversial ending when Zambian referee Jani Zikazui blew the final whistle 89:42 minutes before the start time expired. , knowing that it goes without saying and that it is expected that there will be time instead of wasted, amid strong objections from the technical staff and players of the Tunisian team. However, the decision was not appealed.
This end provoked the anger of the Tunisian technical staff and the players, and coach Munther Al-Kabeer approached the referee, pointing to his watch, and telling him that the time had not yet expired, but in in vain, before the refereeing staff took out a security escort.
A few minutes after the players entered the locker room, one of the chief referee’s assistants returned and the two teams were again called to the field to end the confrontation, and while the Malian players returned, their Tunisian counterparts did not return.
On Thursday, the African Football Confederation announced the rejection of the protest of the Tunisian team against the end of its match, “After having examined the protest of Tunisia and the report of all the match officials, the organizing committee decided to reject the Tunisian team’s protest and adopt the game”. 1-0 result in favor of Mali.
While coach Munther Al-Kabeer revealed the preparedness of midfielder Youssef Msakni after recovering from the co-Corona virus, player Ghilan Al-Shaalali said: “We forgot the game against the Mali, everyone is focused and knows what awaits them in the game against Mauritania. I wish a speedy recovery to those infected with Corona virus.”
Tunisia, champion in 2004 and vice-champion in 1996, is participating for the 20th time in the final phase.
At the pre-match press conference, striker Seif El-Din Jaziri, top scorer in the last Arab Cup in Qatar when Tunisia were runners-up to Algeria, said: “We left our families for this tournament. We are here to make up for it.” for this sacrifice. I was the top scorer in the Arab Cup, but now we are in the African Cup, which means a lot to me and my team.”
On the other hand, the Mauritanian team will participate for the second time in its history after 2019 in Egypt and will bid farewell to it from the group stage after a draw with Tunisia and Angola in particular and a defeat against Mali.
The ‘Al-Mourabitoun’ players had a negative tinge, with French coach Didier Gomez hoping to make up for the opening defeat.
Newcomers Gambia and Mali lead the standings with three points, and they meet in Limbe ahead of the match between Tunisia and Mauritania, which will be held at the same stadium, and if a team wins their sixth point , she will ensure that she reaches the knockout stages. of 16.
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