The reigning African champions face a depleted Nigerian side in Austria on October 9 ahead of the November resumption of 2021 Cup of Nations qualifying
Head coach Gernot Rohr leads the Nigerian national football team against their Algerian counterparts on Friday in Austria.
The encounter is an international friendly between two of Africa’s football giants, but there are several underlying issues that make the tie an interesting one to watch.
Algeria’s 18-match unbeaten run
The Desert Foxes are not just the champions of Africa; they are also on an 18-match unbeaten run.
They achieved the feat by putting together an incredible record of 15 wins in competitive and friendly matches and three draws, with the victories including a thrashing of Colombia in France.
The last time Algeria lost a match was in October 2018, away to Benin.
After ten months of inactivity due to the coronavirus pandemic, Nigeria will aim to put that 18-match unbeaten run to the test and hope for a better result than that obtained when the two sides met last year at the semifinals of the African Cup of Nations.
Revenge mission for the Eagles?
The Foxes defeated Nigeria in Cairo last July on their way to becoming African champions a second time.
It was a dramatic match that was locked at one-all heading into stoppage time before a Riyad Mahrez thunderbolt free-kick won it for the North Africans.
The Super Eagles can get back their pound of flesh with a victory over the Foxes. But it will not come easy as the Algerians are led yet again by AFCON-winning coach Djamel Belmadi and talismanic captain Mahrez.
The missing Eagles
Odion Ighalo was Nigeria’s outstanding star at the 2019 AFCON in Egypt, but the Manchester United striker has since drawn the curtain on his international career.
Victor Osimhen, the man who has creditably stepped into Ighalo’s shoes, will be absent against the Algerians.
Genk’s hotshot Paul Onuachu was called up to replace the Napoli forward. Rohr will also be without the services of injured Leicester City midfielder Wilfred Ndidi and Galatasaray’s midfield enforcer Oghenekaro Etebo.
Those are big misses, no doubt, but the German tactician can still call on the talents of England-based quartets of Fulham’s Olaoluwa Aina, Oluwasemilogo Ajayi from West Bromwich Albion, Everton’s Alex Iwobi, and Leicester’s Kelechi Iheanacho.
The facts and stats
Nigeria and Algeria have faced each other 20 times already, with the West Africans winning nine games, losing eight, and the other three ties ending in draws.
The first-ever face-off between the two teams happened at the 1973 All African Games, and it ended in a 2-2 draw.
Nigeria then won just two of the next nine matches against Algeria, losing six of the rest, including the opening and final games of the 1990 AFCON in Algiers.
However, during the Super Eagles’ golden years in the nineties and beyond, Nigeria strung together an 8-game unbeaten run against the Foxes – seven victories and a draw.
The Nigeria-Algeria game will kick-off by 9:30 pm local time inside an empty stadium.