Algeria under pressure ahead of Cameroon clash

There is palpable tension on the streets of Algiers ahead of Algeria crucial 2022 World Cup qualifying tie against Cameroon.

The two African heavyweights both missed the 2018 edition in Russia and are desperate to make an appearance in Qatar this November.

A few months ago, Algeria would have been seen as clear favourites.

Heading into the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations as defending champions, a 35-match unbeaten streak came to an end in embarrassing fashion as the North Africans were eliminated in the group stage without winning a game.

The catastrophic showing in Cameroon, including a goalless draw with Sierra Leone and a 1-0 loss to Equatorial Guinea, halted any momentum and plunged the Fennecs into uncertainty.

That tension came to the fore on Sunday morning at coach Djamel Belmadi’s pre-match press conference.

Two journalists, known for asking tough and sometimes critical questions of Algerian Football Federation officials, were barred from entering the conference room.

Then, when another asked the coach why Charleroi midfielder Adem Zorgane had not been selected, Belmadi snapped.

“Have you ever played football? You don’t have the physique of a footballer or even of an athlete to tell me that he (Zorgane) deserves to be called up,” the coach demanded.

“Stay in your places, you are no one to tell me that he deserves (to be called up).”

Belmadi’s press conferences have always been media spectacles, but observers noted that this one in particular was more tense than usual.

“There is nervousness in the air, and sometimes for trivial matters,” Yazid Ouahib, one of Algeria’s veteran journalists, told Jeune Afrique.

“For example, when the press revealed that the national team was going to spend a few days in Malabo before travelling to Cameroon, the coach was very irritated…even though it was not revelatory information.”

In addition to the jibes with national media, uncertainty has manifested itself in Belmadi’s selection, with six changes made from the 2021 Afcon squad.

One man making a return is 36-year-old midfielder Adlene Guedioura – a fixture in Algeria’s 2019 Nation Cup run – despite playing just a handful of matches this season for Burton Albion in the third-tier of English football.

Other regulars at Algeria that were left out are Al Sadd striker Baghdad Bounedjah and West Ham livewire Said Benrahma.

Instead, Belmadi preferred to hand 32-year-old Qatar-based striker Mohamed Benyettou an international debut, also recalling Besiktas winger Rachid Ghezzal in attack.

“This list is made to qualify for the 2022 World Cup,” Belmadi summarised succinctly.

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Herman Nnyanzi 'The Analyst' is a Ugandan multimedia sports journalist who started his career in 2017. He has a genuine strong love for sports and expertise, especially football. Contact me on +256704472629 or +256786403603

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