Algeria v Equatorial Guinea

Belmadi refuses to point finger at Algeria’s non-scoring strikers

18:26 SAST 2022/01/16
Djamel Belmadi & Islam Slimani, Algeria
The Fennecs were muzzled in their Africa Cup of Nations opener against Sierra Leone

One of the biggest Africa Cup of Nations disappointments so far, Algeria dominated the ball against Sierra Leone in their opener, but were unable to break down in the minnows in a 0-0 draw.

They’ll be hoping to set things right in their second group game—against Equatorial Guinea on Sunday—but coach Djamel Belmadi is refusing to blame his non-scoring strikers for their stalemate against the Leone Stars.

As far the the Algeria boss is concerned, the likes of Islam Slimani and Baghdad Bounedjah can be let off the hook for not scoring due to the amount of work they do for the team…as long as someone else is banging in the goals.

“I ask a lot of my strikers,” he told GOAL. “I ask them to work to prevent the easy first delivery [from the opposition defence], and all of what I ask demands a lot of energy.

“They need to press, this takes energy, and maybe [against Sierra Leone], their finishing lacked lucidity. Perhaps it’s my fault.

“If the striker doesn’t score, but the others do score and he puts in the work, then he may not be satisfied—either Islam or Bounedjah—but I will be.”

Bounedjah, who was Algeria’s hero when he bagged the winning goal in the 2019 Afcon final, scored 58 goals during the calendar year of 2018—more than any other player in the world game—but is struggling with a loss of form in recent months.

He hasn’t scored in his last six Algeria outings—since netting a brace against Sudan in the Arab Cup—and was ineffective after being brought off the bench against Sierra Leone.

Slimani became Algeria’s all-time top scorer during 2021, but at 33, it remains to be seen what kind of sustained impact he can make at the Nations Cup.

Despite backing his strikers even in light of their lack of goals, Belmadi has acknowledged that Algeria must start to take the chances that come their way against Equatorial Guinea on Sunday.

“We must start to finish the chances we create, that’s key before anything,” he continued. “We must be more surgical, more clinical, finish our moves and add that final gesture.

“It can be worrying when you’re not producing, but we created a lot of chances and just didn’t take them.

“We didn’t succeed in our work rate, applying ourselves, but we won’t stop attacking as much as possible—it’s in our DNA—we just have to find a balance.”

Algeria are looking to become the first team since Cameroon in 2002 to retain the Afcon.