Sunday 14 July 2019

/ by Colin Udoh
Algeria coach Djamel Belmadi

It was perhaps the first press conference involving Nigeria at this Africa Cup of Nations where the pre-match vibe quickly turned adversarial. Algeria coach Djamel Belmadi took exception to being asked by Nigerian journalist Chisom Mbonu if he condoned the behavior of his player Ramy Bensebaini, who tried to get Wilfred Zaha sent off, by grabbing the Ivorien’s arm, using it to slap his own face then going down theatrically.
"I'm not really sure this is the place to talk about this," was his response. ”If you try to put pressure on us, it is not the right way. There is a referee for that and VAR for that and it's not your job to talk about this.”

Algerian journalists at the pre-match press conference broke out in applause.

Belmadi subsequently fielded soft ball questions from the Algerian media, but his hackles were already up and the coach finished the rest of the event unsmiling.

If that answer was an attempt to deflect attention away from the Algerians’ penchant for the dark arts, it was not entirely successful as much of the pre-match reporting around the world has been focused on his refusal to answer the question.

This, inspite of Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr, who until then appeared unaware of the incident, trying to play down the incident
“We didn’t see that. We watched the tactical situations of the match, we continue to analyze the tactical things.”

But it definitely set the tone for Sunday’s game between these two old adversaries, who have met multiple times in both Africa Cup of Nations and in qualifying.

The Super Eagles dominate their recent meetings, with six wins from eight confrontations. That is a record that riles the Algerians and one they are keen to flip, and join the team which won their sole title on home soil in 1990

"The one that we won was in 1990, a long time ago when it was at home. We've never won since. This is away from home, it's more difficult of course," said Belmadi.
"This is our target, we want to write our history and the players want to write their history as well. It's not far - two more steps, but two very difficult steps to this great achievement. We will try our best.”

For Rohr, who has been under some pressure from the start of the tournament, scaling his semifinal bar has taken a lot of that load off his shoulders, but defeat will still not be countenanced, as Nigeria set their sights on a fourth trophy.

Out of 24 have emerged four, and these two richly deserve their place. Hopefully, they will serve up a treat devoid of gamesmanship or worse, those aforementioned dark arts.


10 Jan 1973: Nigeria 2 Algeria 2 – Lagos (All-Africa Games)
28 July 1978: Algeria 1 Nigeria 0 – Algiers (All-Africa Games Final)
22 March 1980: Nigeria 3 Algeria 0 – Lagos (AFCON Final)
10 Oct 1981: Nigeria 0 Algeria 2 – Lagos (World Cup Qualifier)
30 Oct 1981: Algeria 2 Nigeria 1 – Constantine (World Cup Qualifier)
10 March 1982: Algeria 2 Nigeria 1 – Benghazi (AFCON)
11 March 1984: Algeria 0 Nigeria 0 – Bouake (AFCON)
15 Jan 1988: Algeria 1 Nigeria 0 – Annaba (Olympics Qualifier)
30 Jan 1988: Nigeria 2 Algeria 0 – Enugu (Olympics Qualifier)
23 March 1988: Algeria 1 Nigeria 1 – Rabat (AFCON semi, 8-9 penalties)
2 March 1990: Algeria 5 Nigeria 1 – Algiers (AFCON)
16 March 1990: Algeria 1 Nigeria 0 – Algiers (AFCON Final)
13 July 1993: Nigeria 4 Algeria 1 – Lagos (World Cup Qualifier)
8 Oct 1993: Algeria 1 Nigeria 1 – Algiers (World Cup Qualifier)
21 Jan 2002: Algeria 0 Nigeria 1 – Bamako (AFCON)
3 July 2004: Nigeria 1 Algeria 0 – Abuja (World Cup Qualifier)
4 Sept 2005: Algeria 2 Nigeria 5 – Oran (World Cup Qualifier)
30 Jan 2010: Algeria 0 Nigeria 1 – Benguela (AFCON)
12 Nov 2016: Nigeria 3 Algeria 1 – Uyo (World Cup Qualifier)
11 Nov 2017: Algeria 1 Nigeria 1 – Constantine (World Cup Qualifier). Match later awarded 3-0 to Algeria as Nigeria fielded ineligible player. 

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