July 20, 2024

Algeria Pay For Mahrez Gamble

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Algeria disappointingly finished last in Group D.

FILE PHOTO: Benching Riyad Mahrez backfires for Algeria as miserable Mauritania defeat condemns Fennec Foxes to shocking AFCON group-stage elimination. PICTURE: Getty Images

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JOHANNESBURG: Belmadi shockingly decided to start his most lethal weapon Riyad Mahrez on the bench.

Two-time TotalEnergies African Cup of Nations (AFCON) winners Algeria have been booted out of the competition by Mauritania in their closing Group D match at the Stade de la Faix, Ivory Coast.

The Desert Foxes of Algeria, who are ranked 30th in the world (see the latest FIFA rankings), were stunned 1-0 by the 105th ranked Mauritania. As a result, the former sneaked into the last 16 while the 2019 winners head home.

A first half goal by Mohamed Dellahi Yali was enough to end Djamel Belmadi (47) and Algeria’s tournament. Belmadi shockingly decided to start his most lethal weapon Riyad Mahrez (32) on the bench in a must-win final group match.

Ultimately, the decision proved costly because, although Algeria had the most ball possession and looked threatening, they did not have the killer instinct of Mahrez.

The Al Ahly Saudi player was introduced at the beginning of the second half to try and influence the match, but despite 16 shots at goal Algeria could not unlock Mauritania. Algeria’s script reads the same as that of Ghana, who have also been eliminated from the competition in the group stages.

Since winning AFCON in 2019 in Egypt, the Desert Foxes have failed to make it past the groups or register a single win in six outings (2021 & 2023) editions.

In this edition, Algeria disappointingly finished last in Group D, having collected two points: two draws and a loss. Angola won the group with seven points, followed by Burkina Faso with four and then Mauritania, who joined them in last 16 as their three points was enough for one of the third best finishes.

Mahrez will go back to the Saudi Professional League (SPL) without a goal to his name. This is disappointing for his own standards.

Recent AFCON results have proven that there are no longer small teams as the determination and hunger of so-called minnows gets them over the line ahead of so-called giants.

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