Algeria/Zimbabwe: Algeria Target Perfect Campaign

11 February 2020

Algeria coach Djamel Belmadi says the Desert Foxes, who play Zimbabwe in back-to-back AFCON qualifiers next month, are eyeing a perfect campaign to set the tone for their 2022 World Cup qualifiers later in the year.

The Desert Foxes are set to host the Warriors on March 23 before flying to Harare a week later for the return leg in Group H of the 2021 AFCON qualifiers.

The next AFCON tournament will be held in Cameroon.

Belmadi, who enjoys the maximum backing of the Algerian Football Federation president Kheireddine Zetchi, recently told the media they have set sights on wrapping up the AFCON berth first.

The 43-year-old, who was recently named Best Male Coach of the Year 2019 at the CAF awards, believes his side are focused on the job at hand after helping Algeria win the AFCON title in Egypt last year, a feat they had last achieved in 1990.

"Since then, we have won the first two matches in the AFCON 2021 qualifiers. We remain in the dynamics of AFCON 2019, but we have our feet on the ground," he told the Algerian press.

"You have to stay focused, otherwise it is again guaranteed failure. We are not in the idea of prolonging the euphoria.

"I'm here to send this message. It is with work that we won the AFCON. So, we quickly got back to basics -- work.

"If I were asked what my main objective is, I would say qualifying for the World Cup. The qualification for AFCON 2021, and the final phase, is very good preparation for the World Cup.

"We would continue to play high-level matches and that would allow us to discover and install new blood for the 2022 World Cup."

Algeria are in Group H along with Zimbabwe, Zambia and Botswana in the 2021 AFCON qualifiers.

They lead the group with six points after thrashing Zambia 5-0 at home and then edging Botswana 1-0 in Gaborone.

Zimbabwe are second in the race with four points.

The matches between Zimbabwe and Algeria will be among the pick of the crop when the AFCON qualifiers resume next month.

The back-to-back clashes are likely to set the tone for the remainder of Group H.

After the AFCON qualifiers, Algeria face minnows Djibouti, Burkina Faso and Niger in the Qatar World Cup campaign.

Their captain Riyad Mahrez, who is one of the star players expected to play a key role in both campaigns, said Algeria were treating both campaigns seriously.

"We know the importance of these qualifications for the World Cup. We are also aware that all teams, whatever their rank, can be dangerous, and that is why we will have to prepare well for this.

"But by then there will be many competitions and matches to be played with the national team.

"This is to tell you that before thinking about these World Cup matches, you will first have to qualify for the next African Cup of Nations to be held in Cameroon, because it is not yet done," said Mahrez.

Algeria Football Federation president Zetchi believes planning will be key for the upcoming matches.

Zetchi also clearly expressed support for coach Belmadi and his staff, promising to provide the best means to achieve the objectives already set.

"We will first have to be classified first in this pool after the six group matches, after that, will be a crucial second phase, and important in the round trip, we will have to remain cautious," he said.

"Take the matches very seriously from the start and manage this group phase with great intelligence, and in this regard, we fully trust our technical staff, led by Djamel Belmadi."

Algeria are likely to beef up their technical team as former captain Madjid Bougherra could join Belmadi's backroom staff.

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