Rustenburg, South Africa: Algeria will be fancied to get their Africa Cup of Nations campaign up and running at the second attempt when they take on Group D rivals Togo here on Saturday.
But Togo and coach Didier Six will prove no pushovers, as they showed when going within two minutes of holding competition favourites Ivory Coast in their opener.
Gervinho’s 88th-minute goal tipped the scales 2-1 in the Ivorians’ favour, but Six was seething over a second-half disallowed goal he felt was entirely legitimate.
Motivated by this perceived injustice, the Togolese will prove slippery customers for an Algeria side undone by a last-minute goal having largely dominated Tunisia in Monday’s tense Maghreb derby.
While neither country, crossing swords for the first time, can seal a quarter-final place on Saturday, defeat would almost certainly spell the end of the road.
Algeria coach Vahid Halilhodzic believes his inexperienced side were the moral winners against Tunisia, even though the harsh reality tells a different story.
“We’re in a complex position,” he said. “We can’t escape that — we have two matches left, and only two teams go through.
“We’ll analyse certain things to improve them.”
The former Ivory Coast coach rued Monday’s defeat in an encounter Algeria largely dominated.
“We had 15 shots at goal, they had four, we ran further, we had 10 per cent more possession, we had all the match statistics in our favour, but we lost.
“It’s the reality of the result that really hurts us. The buck stops with me, it’s the fault of Vahid, leave the players out of it,” he said.
With a win required over Togo, changes are in the air.
“Perhaps there will be changes in order to take risks even if, in the final 20 minutes, I take a chance and stick on four strikers.”
Midfielder Sofiane Feghouli urged his team-mates to stick together.
“Everything is not lost — we still have two games to redeem ourselves.
“We must cling together and remain united in defeat.
“Although it’s going to be difficult, we’ll try our best to win the next game against Togo,” he told mtn.football.
Six, meanwhile, will be keeping a close eye on the referee’s decisions after lashing out at what he described as bias shown by the man in the middle toward Ivory Coast.
He was proud of his players’ performance in holding the top-ranked team on the continent until Gervinho’s killer blow.
“We managed to contain, or even more, the Ivory Coast. Sabri (Lamouchi, the Ivorian coach), who is a friend, said to me ‘we didn’t deserve to win today’.
“It’s always easy to say that when you have the three points, but it’s true.”