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Algeria’s Youcef Belaili (centre) celebrates after scoring against Senegal Image Credit: AFP

Cairo: Algerian coach Djamel Belmadi says extensive preparations played a major role in their win over Senegal at the Africa Cup of Nations.

The 1-0 victory in Group C in Cairo was the first matchup 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.

Meanwhile, Ghana coach Kwesi Appiah says the time has come to end the dominance of Cameroon over his country in the Africa Cup of Nations.

The Black Stars have confronted the Indomitable Lions four times from 1982 and the best they have achieved is two group draws while suffering two semi-final defeats.

“We are going to give Cameroon a really good game and I am sure we will emerge victorious,” said the coach in his second spell as Ghana coach.

Defending champions Cameroon will start as slight favourites to win the Group F clash in Ismailia Saturday having been the more impressive performers earlier this week.

Cameroon scored twice in three minutes to end the resistance of Guinea-Bissau and win 2-0 while Ghana had John Boye red-carded as they were held 2-2 by Benin.

Benin and Guinea-Bissau the other fixture in an Ismailia double-header on Saturday, while Angola meet Mauritania in Group E in Suez.

Appiah is not overly concerned with the two dropped points against lower-ranked Benin because Ghana are traditionally slow starters at the Cup of Nations.

They always recover and boast a record of six consecutive top-four finishes from 2008, including finishing runners-up twice.

He was upset by the dismissal of veteran Boye, believing his time wasting should have earned a verbal warning rather than a second yellow card.

Cameroon centre-back Ambroise Oyongo, one of four starters against Guinea-Bissau who were part of the 2017 title-winning team, says they must improve against Ghana.

“We have to raise our game against Ghana. We did not start with a win in 2017 but this time we did and I believe that is a good omen going forward in the competition.”


Angola v Mauritania, 6.30pm

Cameroon v Ghana, 9pm

Benin v Guinea-Bissau, midnight