Algeria eye revenge against Cote d’Ivoire - Madagascar to ditch Tunisia too?
Wary of the threat Cote d’Ivoire pose to their dream of a second Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) title, Algeria will go into their quarter-finals game today hoping to maintain their perfect run in the competition for a place in the penultimate round.
Four years ago in Equatorial Guinea, the Elephants of Cote d’Ivoire beat the Desert Foxes of Algeria 3-1 at this same stage en route to winning their second AFCON title. And presented with the same opportunity, the Ivorians would like to repeat that feat as they press for their third continental title.
At the Suez Stadium this afternoon, the Algerians will have other ideas, keen to avenge that loss and inch closer to their dream of winning only their second title since their maiden triumph as hosts in 1990.
This is the ninth AFCON clash between the two sides, the previous eight meetings evenly shared between them with three wins each and two draws. Just as it was in the past, today’s clash will be a crucial encounter as the winners progress to the semifinals and the losers head back home.
Between the two sides, the Desert Foxes have been the more convincing side. They are yet to concede a goal in the four matches played so far and have scored nine goals.
Coach Djamel Belmadi has managed to build a formidable team with a bench blessed with as much quality as their starting XI. The likes of Sofiane Feghouli, captain Riyad Mahrez and Youcef Atal have all been influential and will be expected to step up to the plate to help their cause.
Although the Ivorians were not convincing from the start, they have made steady progress and the decision by Coach Ibrahim Kamara to start striker, Wilfred Zaha, has been very productive for the Elephants.
In two games, the Crystal Palace star has scored two goals, scoring that important goal against Mali at the Round of 16 to advance to the quarter-finals and standing out as potentially the one to make all the difference if given a starting role against Algeria today.
Max Gradel and Serey Die have also proved reliable and will pose a threat to the Algerian defence which is yet to be breached.
Given the formation both sides have adopted so far, this encounter looks likely to be a midfield battle, but the Algerians could switch to a high pressing game to get an early advantage just as they did against Guinea in their Round of 16 encounter.
In the other game, Madagascar will be out to continue their Cinderella story as they come up against 1994 champions, Tunisia.
Between the two, the Malagasys have impressed, conquering among others Nigeria (2-0) and DR Congo to reach the quarter-finals on their debut.
Tunisia were the weakest side to have qualified from the group stages, managing only three points to pick the second spot from Group E.
However, against Ghana, Alain Giresse masterminded a plan that saw the Carthage Eagles eventually prevail 120 minutes to a 1-1 draw. They eventually won 5-4 on penalties.
With a semifinal place within reach, the Tunisians are expected to come all out but will find Madagascar a hard nut to crack.
Like Tunisia, the Malagasys were resolute, despite twice succumbing their lead to win 4-2 on penalties after a 2-2 drawn game in regulation, plus extra time against DR Congo.