Algeria skipper Mahrez calls for courage in last chance tie against Cote D'Ivore

By Paul Myers - RFI
JAN 20, 2022 LISTEN

Algeria skipper Riyad Mahrez urged his teammates to relish the challenge of taking on Cote D'Ivoire in an all-or-nothing struggle to hold onto their Africa Cup of Nations crown.

The defending champions go into their final Group E game in Doula aware that only three points will assure their progress.

Algeria, who overcame Senegal 1-0 to take the 2019 title, began their campaign with a surprising 0-0 draw with Sierra Leone. That was followed by a shock 1-0 loss to Equatorial Guinea.

On Thursday at the Stade Japoma, Djamel Belmadi's players must overcome the pool pacesetters to secure their berth in the last-16 knockout stages.

"The message is simple: we have to win," said Mahrez. "We've lacked efficiency and we must be more spontaneous in our attacking.

"But if you are not motivated in a situation like this when will you be?"

As well as the humiliation of defeat, Algeria also lost their 35-match unbeaten run.

"We're ready and prepared to give our best against Cote D'Ivoire," added Mahrez. "We didn't lose for 35 games before the match against Equatorial Guinea.

"When your back is against the wall, you shouldn't talk too much. Everyone knows what they have to do."

On the way to the trophy in Egypt, Algeria beat Cote D'Ivoire on penalties: a loss that might spur the Ivorians even though they are certain of featuring in the last-16.

Ivorian boss Patrice Baumelle said he is likely to keep faith with goalkeeper Badra Ali Sangare whose error gifted Sierra Leone a late equaliser last Sunday.

The 35-year-old left the pitch after injuring himself and later discovered his father had died.

"It is a chain of events that have been difficult to deal with for him and the team," said Beaumelle.

"From a footballing viewpoint he felt responsible but I said to him that great players also make mistakes.

"As for the personal tragedy he has gone through, it is very difficult. 

"It has been a challenging time but Badra remains focused. Everyone still has faith in him."