23 January 2013

Algeria/Tunisia: North Africans Disappoint At Cup of Nations

Photo: Barry Aldworth/Backpagepix
Madjid Bougherra of Algeria celebrates scoring in the 2010 Cup of Nations finals.

Algeria’s meeting with Tunisia in Group D at the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations was highlighted as one of the games to watch in the first round of the competition. It proved a massive disappointment.

The Algerians came into this tournament as the second-ranked African side behind Cote d’Ivoire, and while they have never quite had the flair of sides south of the Sahara, they were expected to be one of the more attractive teams to watch.

The likes of Valencia's Sofiane Feghouli, Foued Kadir from Marseille, Nottingham Forest's Adlène Guedioura and Racing Santander's Hameur Bouazza are all players who can light up a stage.

But in many ways Tuesday night presented the same old story. Algeria were impressive in qualifying, but once they got to the big stage, they seemed to freeze.

The past two decades have seen one fourth-place finish (in 2010), but for the rest it has been a story of underachievement for a country that has produced some fine sides.

And on the evidence of the game against Tunisia, it looks as though their campaign in 2013 will be another bitter disappointment.

The 1-0 loss to a late Youssef Msnaki goal means they will probably need to beat Cote d’Ivoire in their final Group D match on January 30 to advance to the quarter-finals. And victory against Togo, next up on Saturday, is a must.

Tunisia probably cannot believe their luck. As exquisite as Msnaki’s strike was, no team deserved to win this dreadful game. A 0-0 scoreline would have been fitting.

But they have now upset the expected flow of the group and will know that victory over Togo will give them a massive chance at what was previously seen as an unlikely quarter-final spot. It was much the same in 2012 though, when they were not expected to advance out of a pool that included hosts Gabon and an impressive Moroccan side who, like Algeria, failed to fire.

Tunisian coach Sami Trabelsi was understandably delighted with the victory: "We deserved to win, and while Algeria also played well, in a derby like this you must not play to lose and that’s what we did," Trabelsi said.

"I spoke with my players and pleaded for them to be patient and that our experience will help us to win it. Even after the injury to Essam Jemaa we remained composed and that saw us through."

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