- Algeria won the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations title in Egypt
- Fennecs up 28 places in FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking
- Team made impressive comeback under Djamel Belmadi
With their victory at the 2019 CAF Africa Cup of Nations title in Egypt, Djamel Belmadi’s side surged from 68th to 40th in July’s FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking and from 13th to fourth among African teams.
Reflecting on the journey his team have been on, the coach had this to say: “As soon as I took charge of Algeria, I made a point of conveying to the players my desire to be crowned 2019 African champions in Egypt. But many doubted that we’d be able to achieve that. Despite the tough journey, however, we managed to win this highly sought-after prize.
“Don’t forget where we were back then and how far we’ve come. Ten months ago, when I took over, I found them in a very difficult situation. Now we’ve managed to win the country’s first trophy on foreign soil, a trophy the Algerian people have waited many long years for. Being crowned continental champions in such a short time was a wonderful achievement, especially since we finished the tournament with both the best attack and defence. That wasn’t easy.
“We won the title by beating Senegal, the continent’s top ranked nation in the FIFA Ranking and a participant at Russia 2018. Our opponents in the final were a very strong team, but we deserved the title.”
The long road back
Algeria have had to overcome some major setbacks in the last five years. After qualifying for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ and progressing to the knockout phase for the first time under Bosnian coach Vahid Halilhodzic, the Desert Foxes carried their form into the following year under new coach Christian Gourcuff.
But their troubles began after the departure of the Frenchman, the team suffering one defeat and disappointment after another. First, they were eliminated in the opening round of the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations and then failed to make it to Russia 2018.
But when Djamel Belmadi, who has been nominated for The Best FIFA Men’s Coach 2019 award, took over, he felt that the same squad was capable of once again being among the best in Africa. During their triumphant AFCON campaign, they recorded impressive victories over Senegal (twice), Guinea, Côte d’Ivoire and Nigeria.
Underlining the team’s superb recent performances and 28-place surge up the Ranking are some very impressive statistics. Since Belmadi took over, Algeria have played 15 games, winning 11, drawing three, and losing only one – to Benin in the Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers in Cotonou.
At the tournament finale in Egypt, the side captained by Riyad Mahrez had the most potent attack, with 13 goals – six of which came the first round and seven in the knockout phase. Their biggest wins came against Tanzania in the first round and against Guinea in the last 16, both games finishing 3-0.
In terms of defence, Algeria had the joint-best record along with Senegal, with both sides conceding just twice in seven games (Morocco and Egypt conceded just one goal apiece but only played four games).
Qatar 2022 on the horizon
Belmadi and his squad will certainly not be resting on their laurels. After their continental triumph, the goal now is to return to the world stage at the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ after the intense disappointment of missing the last edition in Russia.
With a host of young players who shone at Egypt 2019, such as Player of the Tournament Ismael Bennacer, Youcef Atal and Adam Ounas, and veteran stars like Riyad Mahrez, Baghdad Bounedjah and Youcef Belaili, Algeria look as well prepared as anyone for the Qatar 2022 qualifiers.