The defending Africa Cup of Nations champions Algeria have finalized two high profile friendlies. The Desert Foxes will face Nigeria and Mexico for the upcoming October FIFA international window.
First ever friendly against Nigeria
The Desert Foxes will first square off against the Super Eagles of Nigeria on October 9th in Vienna, Austria. The match will be a remake of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations semi-final that saw Riyad Mahrez score an iconic 94th minute winner. It will be the first ever friendly between the two nations who have faced each other 21 times in official competition at the senior level.
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Four days later, on October 13, Djamel Belmadi’s men will take on El Tri of Mexico, a match that will pit the champions of Africa against the champions of CONCACAF. Mexico won the 2019 Gold Cup last summer by beating the United States 1-0 in the final, which took place just a few weeks before Algeria were crowned champions of Africa in Egypt. According to Mexican media, the two sides will face each other in Amsterdam, Netherlands.
Algeria has only faced Mexico on one previous occasion, a friendly match in 1985 which served as preparation for the 1986 World Cup which Mexico was hosting. El Tri emerged 2-0 winners in that match that played at the Estadio Sergio León Chávez in the small central city of Irapuato.
Player selection headache
Algeria coach Djamel Belmadi will have to make due without a number of key players for the upcoming friendlies. Starting right-back Youcef Atal, as well as his Nice teammate Hicham Boudaoui are both ruled out due to injury.
Belmadi will also be unable to count on the services of the Saudi Arabia-based duo of Djamel Benlamri and Youcef Belaili. The two players, who were hugely influential in Algeria’s 2019 AFCON triumph last summer, refused to return to Saudi Arabia to rejoin their clubs when the Saudi league restarted in August. Instead, both players are currently in Algeria, with Benlamri recently terminating his contract with Al-Shabab and Belaili in talks with Egypt’s Al Ahly for a potential transfer.
Two other players from Algeria’s Africa Cup winning team are also in between transfers and are unlikely to be called up. Islam Slimani (Leicester City) and Adam Ounas (Napoli) are both expected to join new clubs before the close of the transfer window on October 5th.
The absences will give Djamel Belmadi an opportunity to test out some new players, including a pair of 20-year olds: centre-back Mohamed Amine Tougai (Espérance, Tunisia) and Adem Zorgane (Paradou AC). Both players have been included in Belmadi’s preliminary squad.
18 match unbeaten run
Algeria go into the October friendlies full of confidence. The Desert Foxes are on an 18-match unbeaten run. Algeria’s last loss came almost 2 years ago, a 1-0 loss to Benin in 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers. Since then, Algeria has won 13 and drawn 5 matches, with marquee wins over the likes of Senegal, Nigeria, Tunisia, Mali, and a 3-0 mauling of Colombia.