- A new unbeaten record for the best team in Africa
- The Fennecs shiny Lions realistic Eagles sluggish
- Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco prepare for global qualifiers and the FIFA Arab Cup
The second part of the year promises to be busy for many teams in the Arab world, with the qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 ™ in Zones Asia and Africa, but also with the first edition of the Cup. FIFA Arabic, to be held in Qatar at the end of the year.
While the qualifying play-offs for this new tournament will be held in the coming days, and the AFC teams were engaged in the globalist qualifiers, several teams being exempt from these obligations have taken advantage of the international window to play matches of preparation. This is particularly the case ofAlgeria, of Morocco and some Tunisia, who were able to draw valuable lessons for the upcoming deadlines.
A record and certainties for Fennecs
Unbeaten since November 2018, defending champion in the CAN Africa Cup of Nations, and best African nation in the FIFA / Coca-Cola World Ranking, Algeria already seems ready to meet any challenge. But the coach Djamel Belmadi is not the style to fall asleep on its laurels and attached a lot of importance to the three scheduled matches against Mauritania, Mali and Tunisia. “These friendly meetings are far from being without stake for me, since they will be decisive for the next FIFA Ranking. Our objective is to preserve our position in the continental Top 5, to be able to play a possible return match of the play-offs of World 2022 at home, “he announced.
Mission accomplished for Fennecs, with three successes, 4-1 against Mauritania, 1-0 against Mali, and – especially – 2-1 in Tunisia, its continental runner-up in the FIFA Ranking. On this occasion, the Algerians broke the unbeaten record for an African selection, their 27th unbeaten match erasing that of Côte d’Ivoire (26). Better, in this Maghrebian derby, Algeria takes a step ahead of its neighbor and rival, with a 16th victory in 44 matches, for 15 Tunisian victories and 13 draws. “This series of invincibility means a lot. First of all consistency after the African coronation in 2019, by getting back to work to come out of great performances. The credit goes to the players, who worked hard to beat this record”, judged the coach of Verts after the victory at Radès. “Now it’s not going to be easy to preserve this series, especially as all the teams are waiting for us to bring us down.”
These three successes also allowed the coach to do a squad review, giving central defenders a chance. Ahmed Touba and Abdelkader Bedrane, who showed that they could replace the holders Djamel Benlamri and Aïssa Mandi. Ramiz Zerrouki and Haris Belkebla also scored points, and Riyad Mahrez confirmed that his talent and experience were invaluable in important moments. The Manchester City striker, absent against Mauritania, scored the only goal of the match against Mali, and that of break against Tunisia, after the opening of the score of Baghdad Bounedjah.
A disappointment and a hope among Eagles of Carthage
For its part, Tunisia was confirmed during its series of three friendly matches that it remains a sure bet in African and Arab football, with two victories against DR Congo (1-0) and Mali (1-0) , but also that it is currently in its place as the second African nation in the world hierarchy. Deprived of her midfielders Youssef Msakni and Ferjani Sassi, she suffered a lot against the pressing and the liveliness of the Algerians, and logically lost, despite a commitment and aggressiveness found in the second half.
This strength of character was not enough in the Maghreb derby, but a few days earlier, it allowed the men to Mondher Kebaier to win against DR Congo thanks to a single goal of Naïm Sliti at the very end of the first period, and to do the same against Mali a few seconds before the final whistle, thanks to Anis Ben Slimane.
Among the lessons to be learned from his meetings, the coach will undoubtedly be satisfied with the first steps in the jersey of Eagles of Carthage of the very young Manchester United striker Hannibal Mejbri, 18, who could represent an additional offensive option for a team that has been inefficient despite the efforts of Wahbi Khazri.
The Atlas Lions without shining or shaking
Finally, Morocco had only two matches on the program, but against two strong opponents. Against Ghana (1-0) then Burkina Faso (1-0), the men of Vahid Halilhodzic provided the essentials with two successes, certainly without being spectacular, but rarely trembling.
The Atlas Lions have relied on their solid values, namely a Yacine Bounou serene and solid in purpose, a Hakim Ziyech enlightening the game from its entry against the Black Stars and at the origin of the goal of Jawad El Yamiq, and one Achraf Hakimi decisive to score the only goal of the match from a free kick against the Stallions.
The Bosnian coach was able to verify the strength and realism of his team despite many changes, only Adel Taarabt, Romain Saiss, dominate Youssef En-Nesyri retaining their place in the eleven in both meetings. “For me by September we must be much more effective and more determined in a qualifying match,” however tempered the coach after the match against the Burkinabés, despite this perfect record.