Algeria look to break their hoodoo against Nigeria on Sunday in the Cairo as the Africa Cup of Nations reaches the semi-final stage, the point where teams can start to dream of lifting the trophy.
Cairo International Stadium, Cairo, Egypt
Key Stat: Algeria haven't won in six outings against Nigeria, drawing just once and slipping to defeat five times.
Expert Verdict: Algeria may have just about scraped by in their victory over Ivory Coast, a fine opponent in their own right, on Thursday, and they may have a terrible record against Nigeria, but that still doesn't make them less of a favorite here. They have been very difficult to score goals on so far, something that Nigeria have struggled with a bit. Make no mistake about it, these are two very talented teams capable of making a Final, but it's the north Africans that look the more likely.
Djamel Belmadi was forced to take right back Youcef Atal off on Thursday in the quarters after just 30 minutes, so he looks unlikely to feature here in this semi. Other than that, he is free to choose whomever, though he will have to account a day less rest and his side having had to put in those hard miles in extra time.
Riyad Mahrez is one of the men that he chose to take off before they got to extra time on Thursday, so they will be hoping the Manchester City man is fresh and capable of opening up his bag of tricks here. He’s quite capable of his day, even if it’s tough to predict when that will be. Center midfielder Sofiane Feghouli is one of the most important players in the tournament, and it’s easy to see why. He’s just as good defensively as he is on the attack, and he comes off a goal in the win over Ivory Coast.
Algeria have a draw and four wins in their last five matches:
1-1 draw, penalty win vs Ivory Coast
3-0 win vs Guinea
0-3 win vs Tanzania
0-1 win vs Senegal
2-0 win vs Kenya
Defenders:Zeffane, Mandi, Benlamri, Bensebaini
Midfielders:Mahrez, Feghouli, Guedioura, Bennacer, Belaili
Gernot Rohr has so far sparingly used the rest of his squad, and that looks like it will persist here, especially seeing as how he and his team have a full extra day to rest and prepare ahead of this battle.
In matches like this, people sometimes forget the importance of the midfield battle, particularly when it’s a tight affair. There are few better in Africa, and the world for that matter, at patrolling that area than Wilfred Ndidi. The Leicester man covers so much space that he can frustrate even the best of attackers and midfielders. Up front, they will look toward Alex Iwobi to be their creator. They have pace out wide and a strong striker in the middle, but it will be the Arsenal man that forges a path through the likes of Feghouli and co.
Nigeria have four wins and a loss in their last five matches:
2-1 win vs South Africa
3-2 win vs Cameroon
2-0 loss vs Madagascar
1-0 win vs Guinea
1-0 win vs Burundi
Defenders:Awaziem, Troost-Ekong, Omeruo, Collins
Defensive Midfielders:Etebo, Ndidi
Attacking Midfielders:Chukwueze, Iwobi, Musa
Algeria’s record against Nigeria doesn’t make for pretty reading. Across six games, they have lost five times and drawn once. The most recent meetings came in qualification for the 2018 World Cup, with Algeria getting a point via a 1-1 draw in November of 2017 and Nigeria taking three at home thanks to a 3-1 win in November of 2016.
Betfair have the following odds available for this match:
Algeria are at 2.4 to win, a draw is at 2.87, and a Nigeria win is at 3.3.
Algeria finally showed their first signs of wobbles on Thursday night when they had to go all the way to penalties to overcome Ivory Coast. Prior to that, they had not lost in the tournament, keeping clean sheets in all four matches before it. They defeated Guinea, Tanzania, Senegal, and Kenya in that stretch, helping them win the group and advance here. In their last year of action, they have been brilliant as well. Overall, it includes just one loss, three draws, the penalty win, and nine wins. Not too bad at all, though one over Nigeria would be the icing on top.
Nigeria will enter this match as perhaps the most entertaining team of the tournament so far. The Super Eagles have confounded in a big way. First, it was a pair of 1-0 wins over Burundi and Guinea. It looked like they’d win the group, but they fell to unlikely Madagascar in the final group match, meaning they had to take on a game Cameroon side in which they overcame 3-2 to advance to the quarters. Once there, they downed South Africa 2-1 to book a place. Their last year of action has seen them win nine times, draw three, and lose just twice overall.
Betfair have got no for both sides scoring at 1.61.
Algeria to win the tournament can be had at Ladbrokes now for 9/4.
Algeria’s defensive unit looks a lot less shaky than the one that Nigeria can roll out onto the pitch, and for that reason, you have to back their chances here to finally end a poor stretch against the Super Eagles and advance to the Final.