Algeria’s national football team, the Desert Foxes, may have won the TotalEnergies Africa Cup of Nations in 2019, but coach Djamel Belmadi is quick to downplay their chances ahead of the upcoming tournament in Cote d’Ivoire.
In a press conference unveiling his squad for the competition, Belmadi attempted to alleviate the burden of expectations on his side by asserting that they are not among the favorites.
Instead, he pointed to hosts Cote d’Ivoire, along with football powerhouses such as Egypt, Senegal, Morocco, Tunisia, and Nigeria, as stronger contenders for the coveted title.
“We are arriving at this tournament slowly but surely, with a lot of certainty,” remarked Belmadi.
However, he reminded everyone of Algeria’s recent disappointments, including their early exit in the last AFCON edition and failure to qualify for the 2022 World Cup.
“De facto we are not favourites,” he admitted, adopting a cautious stance.
This approach is a stark contrast to Belmadi’s confident predictions before Algeria’s triumphant 2019 AFCON campaign, where they emerged as surprise champions in Egypt.
Despite the coach’s attempt to temper expectations, he expressed confidence in his players, stating, “We will go there with the intention of obtaining an optimal result.”
Algeria is currently in a 10-day training camp in the Togolese capital of Lome, honing their skills and building team cohesion.
The squad, which includes stars like Riyad Mahrez and Youcef Belaili, is set to play two friendlies before heading to Cote d’Ivoire for the finals.
While Belmadi may be cautious about Algeria’s prospects, few would dismiss the North African side as they boast a talented squad and experienced coach.
Despite recent setbacks, including a lackluster performance in the 2021 AFCON and failing to qualify for the 2022 World Cup, Algeria remains a serious contender for the continental crown.
As the Desert Foxes gear up for the challenge, the football world will be watching closely to see if Belmadi’s underdog narrative is a strategic move to deflect pressure or a genuine reflection of the team’s current state.
The TotalEnergies AFCON 2023 promises to be a thrilling spectacle, with Algeria poised to make their mark on the tournament under the guidance of their seasoned coach and a squad filled with quality and determination.