CAIRO (Reuters) – Algerian coach Djamel Belmadi says extensive preparations played a major role in their win over Senegal at the Africa Cup of Nations on Thursday.
The 1-0 victory in Group C in Cairo was the first match-up between two of the tournament’s heavyweights and not only did it ensure Algeria a place in the next round it also emphasised their status as genuine contenders for the continental title.
“For a month, we have been working at this level, we were well prepared and tactically, we were spot on,” said Belmadi.
“Against a big team from Senegal, they did everything right to get the win.”
His players credited Belmadi, at 43 one of the youngest coaches at the tournament and less than a year into the job, with getting the tactics right against Sadio Mane and his team mates.
“All the credit goes to the coach, who put in a lot of preparation through the whole build-up and for the match against Senegal,” said man of the match Ismael Bennacer.
Midfielder Sofiane Feghouli said their pre-tournament hard work had paid off.
“We were very well prepared before the tournament, we trained in Qatar to get used to the heat,” he added.
“It’s true that it’s a little hard with all the pressing we do, but I’m very happy that we do for the team and with the outcome.”
Quick transition out of defence onto the counter attack was another feature of Algeria’s play on Thursday, the win lifting them to six points from two games.
“We’ve played together for a long time and we work hard in training on our transition,” said Feghouli, whose pass set up the 48th minute winner for Youcef Belaili after a quick counter attack started by captain Riyad Mahrez.
“Riyad and I have an understanding, we are always calling to each other to get moves going.”
Algeria, whose only Cup of Nations success came when they hosted the event in 1990, were also among the favourites in Gabon two years ago but were bundled out in the first round after failing to beat Senegal in their last group game.
(Reporting by Mark Gleeson; Editing by Peter Rutherford)