Nigeria host Algeria in the second game of the Africa Group B World Cup qualifier on Saturday. Nigerian fans, Super Eagles players and NFF officials are talking tough, but the Algerian team that will arrive in Uyo will not be the same team that were forced to a 1-1 draw by Cameroon on Matchday 1, and the Eagles need to be careful…
The Algerian central defence that played against Cameroon was makeshift. The Fennecs were without the preferred pair of Aissa Mandi of Real Betis and Hicham Belkaroui of Esperance. The preferred cover, Ramy Bensebaini of Stade Rennais of France was also left out. This meant the Algerians could not smoothly execute their favoured play of building from the back. They will have all three available for the Uyo tie.
They have quietened the discord in their camp. Algeria went into the game against Cameroon in distress. Their coach of four months, Milovan Rajevac was given the free hand to pick his team and he immediately changed the structure, rashly leaving out some experienced players, and shuffling others out of position. He was promptly sacked following the draw. There was also the alleged rift between Mohamed Raouraoua, President of the Algeria Football Federation, and Zetchi Kheireddine, the President of an Algerian Ligue 2 club, which led to the exclusion of some players affiliated with the team. That would have been healed with elimination looming.
A change of coaching crew is not likely to affect them much. The North Africans have changed managers’ mid-campaign in the past, and it had not affected much. They have gone through Christian Gourcuff, Nabil Neghiz and Milovan Rajevac in three years, and managed to blitz through their Nations Cup qualifying group, scoring 25 goals. That a new man is in charge will not faze them.
But something that will not change; Algeria like to start fast, but they score late too. They like scoring in the first 10 minutes. They did in the 7-0 rout of Tanzania and the 6-0 rout of Lesotho in a Nations Cup qualifier, and they did again in the 1-1 draw against Cameroon. And of the 25 goals they scored in the Nations Cup qualifier, 12 were scored in the first half, and seven in the last 15 minutes.
Nigeria will likely win the tie against Algeria. But the Dessert Warriors will fight the Eagles all the way. The statistics say Algeria will keep going until the final whistle: they came back three times against Ethiopia, and recovered from a 2-0 deficit to earn a point against Tanzania. It will not be over until the Final Whistle!