Look at the facts: Algeria never perform on the big stage. That may be a stretch, but the Desert Foxes remain chronic underachievers at major tournaments after their early exit from the 2017 African Cup of Nations in Gabon.
Fielding Africa’s reigning player of the year and an abundance of talented forward players, Algeria still failed to progress from a group with Senegal, Tunisia, and Zimbabwe.
From the onset, Algeria seemed to rely on individual brilliance.
Arguably group B was the tournament’s group of death, but the premature departure plunges Algeria into an existential crisis. They were among the tournament favorites, much lauded and heralded, but they delivered very little.
From the onset, Algeria seemed to rely on individual brilliance. Leicester City’s Riyad Mahrez bailed his team out in the opening match against Zimbabwe in a 2-all draw.
Islam Slimani scored the goals in the do-or-die match against the Senegalese B-team. The Algerians didn’t gel and never showed the attributes of a modern top team: plenty of ball possession, swift transitions, quick-fire passing, flexible interchanging and lethal counterattacking. For much of their time in Gabon, Algeria were out of ideas.
Their coach Leekens was a pragmatist, not a grand theorist.
That footballing paucity revealed that Algeria had little idea of a game conception – which theory to apply to the game. The sum of the Fennecs’s golden generation wasn’t enough to overpower their opponents. Indeed, a golden generation can’t win in the absence of ideas.
Their coach Leekens was a pragmatist, not a grand theorist. He began coaching at Cercle Brugge in his native Belgium in 1984. Algeria was Leekens’s 23rd coaching job. The Belgian resigned this morning following the elimination and, at 67, the Belgian may well have reached his expiry date.
Yet Leekens isn’t the sole culprit of Algeria’s anguish: including interim coaches, Leekens was Algeria’s fourth coach in twelve months. Since French coach Christian Gourcuff left, the team has lacked any notion of stability, highlighted by the poor management of the Algerian Football Association, the FAF.
Yesterday, in the 88th minute against Senegal, Mahrez fumbled an excellent chance inside the box to win the match. He side-footed over after a good return pass from Abdelkader Ghezzal. For once his individual brilliance was absent. Little did it matter – by then the tide had inexorably turned; Tunisia progressed to the knockout phase with a crushing 4-2 win against Zimbabwe.