Algeria’s Carl Medjani heads the ball as Super Eagles’ Captain, John Obi Mikel closes in during their 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying match at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium Uyo last year. Nigeria leads Group B with six points, while Algeria is third on one point. PHOTO: AFP.
Not even the most pessimistic of Algeria fans could have imagined that their team would make such a slow start to the third and final round of African zone qualifiers for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia. Following their excellent showing at Brazil 2014, the expectation was that Les Fennecs would be quick out of the blocks, despite being drawn in a tough section that also features Nigeria, Cameroon and Zambia.
So it was understandable that Algeria fans greeted the 1-1 home draw with the Indomitable Lions and the 3-1 defeat away to Nigeria with disappointment, casting doubt on the team’s ability to reach their third World Cup in a row.
But Algeria’s new coach, Lucas Alcaraz is still optimistic that he will lead the Fennecs to Russia 2018. The Spaniard told FIFA.com that he knows what to do to reverse the trend.
“Obviously, we’re not the favourites, but we have to do everything in our power to get as many points and wins as we can. We have to fight hard in every game to make sure there are no regrets at the end of it all,” he said.
“We’re going to prepare in depth for the two matches against Zambia. The FIFA calendar dictates that our future’s going to hinge on those two games, played in the space of just five days. The players and the staff know what they have to do, what’s expected of them and the importance of these two matches. I need a lot of players for those two games and I’m absolutely convinced that if we beat Zambia, then we’ll qualify.”
As Alcaraz well knows, there is much more to the group than just Zambia, with Nigeria and reigning African champions Cameroun also blocking their road to Russia. He refuses to be downhearted about Algeria’s chances, however: “If we can get through to the last match with morale high and full of hope after a couple of wins, I think we’ll be able to go into it with confidence high.”
That last match will see Algeria take on Nigeria at home. “If we can win our next home games, we’ll be in a good position to welcome Nigeria on the final day,” he added.