Africa Cup of Nations 2019: Algeria Football Team | Final Squad, Preview, Predictions
Algeria have announced their 23-man squad for the 2019 Africa Cup Of Nations, with Manchester City star Riyad Mahrez and FC Porto's Yacine Brahimi headlining coach Djamel Belmadi's squad for the continental showpiece event.
The Desert Warriors were placed in a relatively easy group during their qualifying campaign and overcame Benin, Gambia, and Togo to top their group. Al Sadd striker Baghdad Bounedjah topped the Group D goalscoring charts with 3 goals and was followed by Mahrez, who notched up 2 strikes.
Algeria played a friendly against tournament debutants Burundi in Doha which ended in a draw and have resumed intensive training ahead of their opening encounter against Kenya on June 23.
Algeria are pitted against Senegal, Kenya, and Tanzania in a group that is extremely intriguing and features top players like Mahrez, Kalidou Koulibaly, and Sadio Mane. We can expect some quality encounters with players of such high caliber being involved in one group. Post their opening encounter against Kenya, Algeria will face Mane's Senegal before their final group stage match against Tanzania.
Algeria last won the competition in 1990 and come into the tournament at the back of some extremely disappointing performances in their previous two international competitions. The Greens were knocked out of the AFCON in Gabon in 2017 in the first round itself and failed to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup too.
The Desert Foxes will rely heavily on the likes of Mahrez, Brahimi, Bounedjah in attack and Youcef Atal in defense to make a substantial impact on the competition and live up to the hefty expectations attached to them by fans.
Coach Belmadi's squad selection had a few surprise exclusions, with Napoli full-back Faouzi Ghoulam, Schalke midfielder Nabil Bentaleb and Hoffenheim striker Ishak Belfodil all overlooked for the continental extravaganza. Haris Belkebla has been axed from the Algerian camp after exposing his backside in an online stream.
The incident prompted manager Belmadi to drop the midfielder from the squad, with USM Alger midfielder Mohamed Benkhemassa expected to replace him in the squad, although nothing has been confirmed yet.
Algeria full squad:
Goalkeepers: Rais M’Bolhi, Azzedine Doukha, Alexandre Oukidja
Defenders: Ramy Bensebaini, Mohamed Fares, Youcef Atal, Mehdi Zeffane, Aissa Mandi, Djamel Benlamri, Rafik Halliche, Mehdi Tahrat
Midfielders: Mehdi Abeid, Hichem Boudaoui, Adlene Guedioura, Ismael Bennacer, Sofiane Feghouli
Forwards: Riyad Mahrez, Adam Ounas, Yacine Brahimi, Youcef Belaili, Baghdad Bounedjah, Islam Slimani
Riyad Mahrez: Although Riyad Mahrez wasn't an extremely integral cog of Manchester City's unprecedented domestic treble, he sprinkled his class from time to time and it was his goal against Brighton on the last day of the Premier League campaign that sealed the title for Pep Guardiola's side.
Mahrez is Algeria's most important player heading into the competition and coach Belmadi will be hoping that his talisman rises to the occasion and leads by example, putting in pristine performances and raising the standards of his teammates as well.
Youcef Atal: You know there's something extremely special about a player when he becomes the first Algerian in 33 years to score a hat-trick in Ligue 1. Youcef Atal's exploits with Nice and his striking ambidexterity has caught the eye of the European elites. It's becoming increasingly obvious that the 22-year-old is destined for huge things if he keeps improving at such a rapid rate.
Atal is a right-back but is capable of playing on either flank, and it was from the left flank where he plundered three goals and bagged a hat-trick against Guingamp. The defensive aspect of his game is improving rapidly whilst his tactical knowledge about the game is refining swiftly.
At the AFCON, Atal could emerge as one of the hottest defensive properties in Europe if he manages to put in stellar displays for Algeria.
Baghdad Bounedjah: Al Sadd striker Baghdad Bounedjah made the net bulge a staggering 39 times, scoring six hat-tricks through the course of the season. At 1.84m, the 27-year-old is a sturdy presence up top and can be a nuisance to deal with in the box and from set-pieces. Bounedjah's ability to be in the box at the right time and be at the end of enticing crosses will be vital and will provide an important attacking outlet for the team.
Bounedjah is also very mobile, capable of dropping deep and linking up play whilst also possessing an impeccable right foot with which he can make the net bulge at will, thanks to his clinical finishing ability.
The weight of expectations on him to fire in goals is going to be immense and given how brilliant he's been for his club side, it won't be a surprise if Bounedjah ends up as one of the highest goalscorers in the tournament.
Algeria Fixtures at AFCON 2019
Algeria vs Kenya - 23rd June
Senegal vs Algeria - 27th June
Tanzania vs Algeria - 1st July