The football meetings between Nigeria and Algeria have always been dramatic. Nigeria defeated Algeria to lift her first AFCON trophy in 1980 and Algeria defeated Nigeria ten years later to lift her own first AFCON trophy. Algeria defeated Nigeria to be at her first world cup finals and Nigeria came back to defeat Algeria to be in her first world cup finals at the USA 94.
Nigeria is playing her 15th semifinal in 18th appearances while Algeria is playing her 7th semis in 18th appearances like Nigeria. Nigeria won the trophy thrice – 1980, 1994 and 2013; won silver (Runners up) four times – 1984, 1988, 1990 and 2000; bronze (third place) seven times – 1976; 1978; 1992; 2002; 2004; 2006 and 2010 but lost in Quarterfinal once in 2008.
The Algerians won the Cup of Nations in 1990; Runners-up in 1980 in Lagos where Nigeria banged them 3-0; Bronze in 1984 and 1988; Semifinalists in1982 and 2010 and quarterfinalists 4 times – 1996, 2000, 2004 and 2015.
The two teams met 17 times with Nigeria having 7 wins, Algeria 6 wins and there were 4 drawn games. A vital observation is that Algeria has never beaten Nigeria outside the Algerian land and history may repeat itself on Sunday when they meet in the second semifinal at the Cairo International Stadium that has become home for the Super Eagles at 8pm.
Let us list the meetings: (1). All African Games 10/01/73 Nga 2 Alg 2. (2) AFCON finals in Lagos 22/03/80 Nga 3 Alg 0. There will be more report on this. (3) WC in Lagos 10/10/81 Nga 0 Alg 2. (4) WC in Constantine 30/10/ 81 Alg 2 Nga 1. Algeria went to world cup finals for the first time. (5) AFCON in Benghazi, Libya 10/03/82 Alg 2 Nga 1. (6) AFCON in Buouake 11/03/84 Alg 0 Nga 0. (7) Olympics in Annaba 15/01/88 Alg 1 Nga 0. (8) Olympics in Enugu 30/01/88 Nga 2 Alg 0. (9) Rabat, Morocco 23/03/88 Alg 1 Nga 1 Nga won on penalties 9-8. (10) AFCON in Algiers 02/03/90 Alg 5 Nga 1. AFCFON finals – the highest victory by Algeria. (11) AFCON 16/03/90 AFCON Algeria Alg 1 Nga 0. (12) WC Lagos 13/01/93 Nga 4 Alg 1. (13) WC Algiers 08/10/93 Alg 1 Nga 1. Nigeria also qualified for the WC for the first time. (14) AFCON BAMAKO 21/01/2002 Alg 0 Nga 1. (15) WC Abuja 03/07/2004 Nga 1 Alg 0. (16) WC Oran 04/09/2005 Alg 2 Nga . Nigeria’s highest victory and revenge of match played on 02/03/90. (17). AFCON Benguela 30/01/2010 Alg 0 Nga 1.
Nigeria defeated Algeria to lift her first AFCON trophy in 1980. Segun Odegbami got a brace and Muda Lawal finished it up. It ended 3-0. Nigeria’s line up: Best Ogedegbe; David Adiele; Tunde Bamidele; Christian Chuwku (Capt); Godwin Odiye; Aloysius Atuegbu; Felix Owolabi; Okey Isima; Segun Odegbami; Adokiye Amasiemeka and Muda Lawal. Algerian line up: Mehdi Cerba; Chaabane Mezerkane; Abdelkader Horr; Mohammed Kedis; Moustapha Koiuci; Bouzid Mahyouz; Ali Fergani; Lakdar Belloumi; Salah Assad; Tedi Bensaoula and Hocine Benmiloudi.
To get to this semifinal, Algeria had topped group C with 9 points beating all comers there. Kenya bowed 0-2; Senegal lost 0-1 and thrashed Tanzania 3-0. The Desert Warriors of Algeria dismissed Guinea 3-0 in the round of 16 matches and then went into penalties with Elephants of Ivory Coast winning 4-3 after 1-1 at extra time.
For Nigeria, it was not the rope a dope style but the famous fumble and wobble to whichever stage. Nigeria banged debutante Swallows of Burundi 1-0; confused the Syli Nationale of Guinea 1-0 and lost to another debutante, Berea of Madagascar 0-2 to earn 6 points and come second in group B. It was a psychologically pumped up Nigeria that beat the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon 3-2 in the round of 16 matches before dismissing the Bafana Bafana of South Africa 2-1 in the quarters.
It is obvious that Nigeria has to upgrade their game to be able to have ball possession because they lose their balls easily and the accuracy of their passes is low. Nigeria has 252 ball possessions to Algeria’s 258. Nigeria has the highest corner kick award among all standing teams 31 kicks and Algeria has 20 meaning that Nigeria is good at creating chances to score goals. Nigeria has 27 shots at goal to 23. Though Nigeria shoots better at goal but the selfish attitude of her attackers has to be curbed.
Nigeria should be ready for the master of all rough plays and not their ‘Oyinbo’ kind of play. Algeria has 114 foul plays to Nigeria’s 91. Playing rough is their past time. They are not like the old Super Eagles like Yekini that is difficult to bring down. Felix Owolabi, Christian Chukwu, Yisa Sofoluwe to mention a few are some of the rugged plays of yester years.
There is a hidden challenge for Nigeria. Algeria is highest team scorers with 10 goals when Nigeria has 7 goals. Algeria has only conceded one goal scored by Ivory Coast and Nigeria has conceded five goals. Any attempt to be panicky in defense or lose concentration like Balogun did will make Nigeria become chickens. Nigeria should note time wasting strategies and fake injuries. A good offside trap is needed for Algeria like to score from offside positions and plead with or pressure the Ref to accept it. They were caught offside an alarming 13 times to Nigeria’s 3 times.
Nigeria will stop the winning streak of Algeria that has won all their matches so far. Nigeria should be weary of the combination of Riyard Mahrez of Leicester City FC (Same club with Ndidi and Ihenacho) and Islam Slimani. Mahrez is dangerous with set pieces. Algeria has two players in the highest goal scorers class in Mahrez and Adams Ounas who are in the same pursuit with our own Odion Ighalo and Sadio Mane of Senegal all scoring 3 goals each. I left out Christopher Bakambu of Congo who is out of the competition..
- ENIOLA OLATUNJI.