The Desert Foxes of Algeria continued their march towards the 2019 TOTAL AFCON title by knocking out the Super Eagles of Nigeria in the Semifinals. A sensational Riyadh Mahrez free kick in stoppage time broke the hearts of the Nigerians who had earlier equalized through an Odion Ighalo penalty after Algeria had taken lead in the first half courtesy of an own goal by William Troost-Ekong. In the final coming up on Friday, Algeria will slug it out with the Teranga Lions of Senegal who defeat Tunisia in the other Semifinal clash. On the other hand, Nigeria will battle for the third-place finish against Tunisia.
Here are five talking points from Nigeria vs. Algeria clash.
1. The Nigerian midfield was outclassed
Since the beginning of the tournament, the duo of Oghenekaro Etebo and Wilfred Ndidi have formed a solid base in the Eagles’ midfield to complement the skillful Alex Iwobi. But against Algeria, the superior technique and cohesion of the Algerian midfielders rendered them ineffective, as the Algerians pressed very high up the pitch and constantly kept the Eagles’ defence under pressure.
2. Algerian high pressing
Against Cameroon and South Africa, the Eagles constantly ventured forward due to the direct running, trickery, pace and energy of their attackers. But in the semifinals, the Algerians pressed high up the pitch and thereby ensured the Eagles’ attackers weren’t getting supplied, and on rare occasions that they received the ball, they were outnumbered by white shirts — this made it difficult for the Nigerians throughout as they weren’t accustomed to playing against such opposition.
3. Algeria are the real deal
The most impressive team of the tournament— winning all their group matches, scoring 12 goals, conceding just twice and still unbeaten! The Desert Foxes are living up to expectations as one the tournament’s favorites and doing so in incredible fashion as well. They clearly outplayed the Super Eagles in the Semifinals and will be deserving champions should they triumph against Senegal (a team they defeated 1 nil in the group stages)
4. Baghdad Bounedjah is a headache for Algeria ahead of the final
Coming back on the end of a season which he scored 39 goals in just 22 games for Qatari club, Al Sadd, Bounedjah was expected to set the AFCON on fire by Algerian fans. But he has been disappointing so far, after he has registered just a single goal(against Kenya, in the group stages). He has been a handful for opposing defenders, but his wastefulness in front of goal is a real concern for his team ahead of the final. He missed some glorious chances against Guinea in the Round of 16. He continued that misfortune in the Quarterfinal against Ivory Coast (where he missed a penalty that almost costed his team). Against Nigeria, he should have given his team the lead long before Ekong’s own goal but fluffed his lines.
5. Gernot Rohr exposed again!
The Nigerian coach has come under fire in recent matches for his tactical ineptitude and lack of game awareness. These weaknesses were also laid bare for all to see against Algeria once again, as he was completely lost on how to change the game when the Eagles were searching for the equalizer and when the game was level. Astonishingly, Nigeria finished the game having made just one of their three substitutions!