Algeria a win away from African unbeaten record - GulfToday

Algeria a win away from African unbeaten record

Riyad Mahrez

Riyad Mahrez scored the lone goal when African champions Algeria edged Mali 1-0 in Blida at the weekend to equal the record of unbeaten matches created by the Ivory Coast in 2013. File / Associated Press

If Riyad Mahrez-captained Algeria avoid defeat in a friendly away to Tunisia on Friday they will create a 27-match unbeaten record for an African national team.

Manchester City winger Mahrez scored the lone goal when African champions Algeria edged Mali 1-0 in Blida at the weekend to match the record created by the Ivory Coast in 2013.

Superb one-touch passing led to an opening for the former African Footballer of the Year on 57 minutes and he beat goalkeeper Djigui Diarra from close range.

Having matched the Ivorians’ record, Algeria will face a tough task going one better as Tunisia are ranked second in Africa, two places above Algeria.

Defender Ramy Bensebaini, who plays for German Bundesliga outfit Borussia Monchengladbach, attributes the success of the ‘Desert Foxes’ to never-say-die spirit.

“We never give up, that is why we are so difficult to defeat,” he explained. “We are always ready for a tight tussle.

“Every match is extremely difficult for us because being African champions and unbeaten for so long means opponents are extremely motivated.

“Apart from a wonderful squad that pull in the same direction, we have a great coach in Djamel Belmadi. As Riyad (Mahrez) said recently, he is a national treasure.”

Starting with a 4-1 away victory over Togo in an Africa Cup of Nations qualifier on Nov.18 2018, Algeria have won 19 matches, drawn seven, scored 56 goals and conceded 17.

Only nine of the 26 competitive and friendly matches were at home with five away and 12 at neutral venues.

Twenty-three opponents were African and they also met Colombia, Mexico and 2022 World Cup hosts Qatar.

The widest winning margin was five goals, achieved at home to Zambia and Botswana in 2021 Cup of Nations qualifiers.

Should Algeria avoid defeat in Tunisia, the next target would be the world record held by Brazil, who went unbeaten for 36 matches between 1993 and 1996.

Meanwhile, the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations draw, scheduled for Yaounde on June 25, has been postponed due to Covid-19, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) confirmed on Monday.

A CAF official said the delay of the ceremony to an undecided date was due to ‘logistical reasons related to Covid-19’.

The seeded draw will create six groups of four teams with the winners and runners-up in each plus the four best third-place sides advancing to the knockout second round.

Among the 23 countries who have qualified are defending champions Algeria, hosts Cameroon and record seven-time title-holders Egypt.

Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Comoros, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal, Sudan, Tunisia and Zimbabwe have also secured places.

The last place will be filled by Sierra Leone or Benin, who meet between June 12-14 after a dispute over coronavirus tests prevented the qualifier taking place last March.

Benin refused to play in Freetown because five of their stars were barred having tested positive for Covid-19 in tests conducted by Sierra Leone medical officials.

All five tested negative for the illness before travelling to Freetown and when they returned to their clubs in Europe.

The Cup of Nations was originally set for January and February this year only to be postponed because of the pandemic.

Agence France-Presse

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