The Desert Foxes of Algeria are in a bind at the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations in Gabon, having failed to win a game in their first two group stage matches, and they now face the embarrassing potential for an early exit from the tournament many expected them to win.
On Thursday night the Algerians, who were the top ranked side in Africa according to the FIFA rankings earlier in 2016, virtually defeated themselves thanks to poor defending that gave North African rivals a 2-1 win.
Algeria captain Aissa Mandi scored an own goal when he deflected Youssef Msakni’s cross past his own keeper, before a foul on Tunisia’s Wahbi Khazri gave the Carthage Eagles a penalty which Naim Sliti converted. Algerian substitute Sofiane Hanni scored a wonderful goal in the late stages of the match, but it was nothing more than a consolation.
After Algeria’s first game ended in a disappointing 2-2 draw with Zimbabwe, the side find themselves languishing at the bottom of Group B with only a single point from a potential six.
Senegal have already secured a quarter-final berth thanks to their two victories, and with the final game of the round pitting the Fennecs against the heavily favoured Teranga Lions, the North Africans are in trouble.
Despite a stellar attack that includes Islam Slimani and African Player of the Year Riyad Mahrez, the Algerians have struggled to impose themselves on opponents and shine at the level they were expected to.
Zimbabwe are tied with Algeria at the bottom of Group B on a single point, while Tunisia are third on the log with three to their name. If Tunisia draw with or beat Zimbabwe in the final match of the group stages, the Algerians will not be able to reach the quarter-finals regardless of their efforts against the Teranga Lions.
Progression is not within their control, and they will need to hope for a favour from Zimbabwe in order to have the chance of moving forward, with a narrow victory from the Warriors giving them a chance to triumph on goal difference over the southern Africans.
A first-round exit for Algeria would be beyond embarrassing for the team expected to reach at least the semi-final stages of the competition, if not compete for the title itself, but it is looking increasingly likely with lacklustre performances from Georges Leekens’ charges and a determined Senegal standing in their way on Monday.