On this form Algeria must be favourites to win the 2015 African Cup of Nations
PORTO ALEGRE // There was crass talk this week that Africa had used up all its World Cup credit four years ago. How else should we explain this summer’s wretched performances by Cameroon, the all-too-predictable capitulation by Ivory Coast, the ridiculous live coverage of US$3 million being transported to the Ghanaian team to pay appearance fees or the threats of a training boycott by Nigeria ahead of their last-16 tie with France?
Yet finally – heroically – Algeria provided a positive to remember about Africa’s involvement in this absorbing tournament in Brazil. After becoming the first side from their continent to score four times in a World Cup match and then progressing to the knock-out stages for the first time in their history, Vahid Halilhodzic’s team added another memorable achievement with a superhuman effort against a Germany side many expect to lift the trophy on July 13.
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On Monday, under the cold night sky of Porto Alegre, the Desert Foxes did not rely on cunning as they stood toe-to-toe with one of the world’s great footballing juggernauts. They instead showed the age-old characteristics of all teams deserving of unerring respect: spirit, determination, belief and and an ability to, together, transform into more than the sum of their parts.
There is no shame in the fact the Arab world’s only representatives lost – 2-1 after extra time. Instead there should be great pride in the way they played. This is a team that throughout the line-up, from goalkeeper Rais Mbolhi to forward El Arabi Soudani, proved their conviction and confirmed they deserved to be among the last 16 teams at this World Cup.
Were it not for a frustrating lack of finishing in the opening 20 minutes, Algeria could have pulled off a win that would have been impossible to call undeserved.
They swarmed the pitch, they poked and probed, they regularly outpaced their superior opponents before eventually falling to two extra-time goals.
Yet never let it be said they ran out of steam. Even as the referee was putting his whistle to his lips after 120 minutes, Algeria were rampaging forward to fire an unstoppable drive past Manuel Neuer.
Sure, they go home, but they do so with their heads held high and a bright future beckoning. Madjid Bougherra, the country’s captain, was already talking of winning the African Cup of Nations in 2015 and so well he should be.
If Algeria continue to show the passion and persistence they produced in Porto Alegre, they will arrive in Morocco as favourites. And surely leave as champions.
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Published: July 1, 2014 04:00 AM