The Super Eagles were earlier scheduled to face West African neighbours Ivory Coast but quickly arranged a last-gasp meeting with the Desert Foxes after the Elephants pulled out of the engagement
Algeria coach Djamel Belmadi has explained why his country decided to face a difficult opponent in Nigeria instead of less-fancied nations.
Belmadi is not unaware that the Super Eagles hold the advantage in the head-to-head statistics against the Fennecs, with the three-time Afcon champions recording nine victories, three draws, and eight losses in their 20 meetings against the reigning African kings.
Regarded as one of Africa’s most talented football nations, Nigeria’s national team is currently the 29th best side in the world and the third-best on the continent.
It was the Super Eagles who stopped the Fennecs from appearing at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, defeating the Algerian’s in Nigeria before managing a 1-1 draw in Algiers. Although, that latter result changed to an Algerian victory after Nigeria was ruled to have fielded an ineligible player in that fixture.
The Algerians got their sweet revenge at last year’s Africa Cup of Nations, defeating the Super Eagles at the semifinals.
The Desert Foxes dominated the first-half of that encounter, but Gernot Rohr’s men grew into the game until a brilliant free-kick from Manchester City star Riyad Mahrez won the tie in stoppage time.
It is this rich history between these two great nations that made Algeria jump at the chance to play Nigeria again when the Nigeria Football Federation faced the embarrassment of the Ivorian snub, says Belmadi.
Speaking to reporters at Wednesday’s press conference, the Afcon-winning coach explained: “Nigeria is a benchmark match, especially in the first half, we could have led 3-0.
“They are always very close matches against them. Moreover, they won more than we did. I am looking for the difficulty against Nigeria to progress.”
He continued: “We could have opted very quickly against smaller teams, but I had the requirement to obtain these two prestigious matches against Nigeria and Mexico.
“Nigeria, everyone knows, it is the third-best team in the FIFA/CAF ranking.”
The Super Eagles have been on an upward trajectory – remaining undefeated in their last five matches – since losing to Algeria on July 14, 2019.
The Rohr-tutored side edged Tunisia to a third-placed finish in Egypt. The Eagles then picked impressive draws against Brazil and Ukraine, before claiming wins against the Benin Republic and Lesotho.