Ivory Coast asphyxiated Algeria

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Algeria's team captain Riyad Mahrez after a missed shot during the Africa Cup of Nations Group E match against Ivory Coast at the Japoma stadium in Douala, Cameroon on January 20 2022.

Suffocating. Like the moist air of Douala, which is well over 30°C. Suffocating. Like the cruel challenge for Algeria: to defeat Côte d’Ivoire at all costs to survive in this African Cup of Nations (CAN). Choked? The Algerians were there throughout the ninety minutes… With one point picked up in two games (0-0 against Sierra Leone; 0-1 against Equatorial Guinea), the Fennecs did not have the right , Thursday, January 20, to a new defeat.

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How to defeat Elephants who, even before starting the final meeting of group E, were guaranteed to participate in the round of 16? How to become a team again “killers”, to use the term of Djamel Belmadi, the coach of Algeria, by finding efficiency against the cages of opponents? In two games, the Greens shot countless times, never breaking a net.

Against Côte d’Ivoire, the “Z’hommes” were defeated 3 goals to 1. Who would have bet on such a score? The defending champions, big favourites, have definitely fallen from their pedestal – they are last in their group – and seemed lost on the dented lawn of the Japoma stadium in Douala. “It’s just a failure. reacted Djamel Belmadi, without being afraid to pronounce the word. We weren’t up to the competition. » Algeria has misplaced its magic and its fire game which had allowed it to chain thirty-five games without defeat in three years. “The Ivorians were better than us, more efficient. In three years, we had never lost. We did not know the defeat, recalled the coach, his voice tight and hoarse. It’s a bitter, hateful feeling. It kills me inside. »

” Huge disappointment “

In Douala, under the deafening sound of the vuvuzelas, the Desert Warriors were unable to find fault with the Ivorians, more serene, more liberated and solid in defense. “It was almost the perfect match,” enthused the coach of the Elephants, Patrice Beaumelle, who had predicted “an electric match”. He was not mistaken. Carried by a twirling attack, Nicolas Pépé pierces the Algerian defense, before centering perfectly behind for Franck Kessié, who opens the scoring (22and minute). Then, on a free kick, in the 39thand, Ibrahim Sangaré, alone at the far post, planted the second goal with a splendid header.

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Côte d’Ivoire did not give up, pushing minute after minute, without ever slowing down their momentum, chaining the scoring opportunities, especially at the start of the second period. Then, Pepe, unstoppable, worsens the score with a powerful strike (54and). At the Japoma stadium, Algeria played on hostile ground and there is no question of the state of the pitch. The stadium filled up throughout the match – to be almost full at the end of the game – and the public leaned towards the Ivorians. With each orange breakthrough, the arena vibrated. “There was manner, heart, desire, and then, I believe, determination to finish our actions, explained Patrice Beaumelle. Algeria is a formidable adversary who, in this competition, did not know how to gain confidence. We felt a frustration on their effectiveness. We must not let the Fennecs wake up. »

The Algerians failed to wake up, uncharacteristically clumsy in front of the goals. And even when Algeria gets a penalty, Riyad Mahrez, the captain, misses against goalkeeper Badra Sangaré. When it does not want, it does not want. But, at the end of the match, Sofiane Bendebka manages to deceive the Ivorian goalkeeper (73and). Sufficient ? The beginning of the revolt? Despite other attempts, the Fennecs are unable to come back to score.

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Algeria certainly lacked success – not to say luck – during their three group matches; but how to explain that such a flamboyant collective could break up? “Difficult to make a rational analysis immediately after such a big disappointment. We had at heart, on this match, to catch up a little, at least from an accounting point of view, if not the way, to say that we are in this competition, that it starts today today. Something we couldn’t do reacted the coach of the Greens who seemed, on the edge of the field, dejected, his face in his hands. From the moment when, since the start of the tournament, we do not realize our opportunities, doubt may have arisen. »

Algeria, defending champions, come out of the first round of the CAN, as in 1992. In two months, another challenge awaits them: they will have to qualify for the 2022 World Cup, which will take place in Qatar from 21 November to December 18, and regain its magic.

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