With the African Cup of Nations just a matter of days away, Ivory Coast appear to be the name on everybody’s lips when talking about prospective winners of the tournament, but as we found out to their expense last year, having a squad full of household names doesn’t assure success in this competition.
Step forward Algeria. Qualifying by beating North African neighbours Libya 3-0 on aggregate over two legs, Bosnian manager Vahid Halilhodžić will be hoping his squad has the strength to kick on and make an impression in this tournament.
While their squad may not contain the well known players the likes of Ghana and Ivory Coast have to offer, Algeria have a team ethic in abundance, and some solid form coming into this competition.
Algeria famously held England to a 0-0 draw in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, but have stepped up markedly since the arrival of their Bosnian coach, formerly of Dinamo Zagreb.
Sky Bet place Algeria as middle of the range hopes in the betting, offering 11/1 about the North African nation repeating their success of 1990; the only time they’ve lifted the African Nations trophy.
However, if there was a group of death in this competition, Algeria are certainly in it. The top two qualify for the knock-out stages, but the Fennec Foxes will face pre tournament favourites Ivory Coast (7/4 Sky Bet), 2004 champions Tunisia (16/1 Sky Bet) and Emanuel Adebayor’s Togo (50/1 Sky Bet).
If Algeria can finish second in their group (they are favourites to finish runners up below Ivory Coast), then a keen eye must be kept on Group C, in which Nigeria are expected to top the group. However, if the likes of Burkina Faso or Zambia could raise their game, the North African’s may well be sitting pretty with a plum tie with one of the lesser fancied nations come the knock out stage.
A name many football fans may be aware of is Sofiane Feghouli. Feghouli plies his trade at Valencia, and is considered to be one of the most dynamic midfielders in the tournament.
Although the Algerians have their work cut out to qualify from Group D, they may well be very good value for their 11/1 quote if they manage to do so.