CAIRO – Algeria coach Djamel Belmadi has revealed the tactical masterplan his team executed in their superb 2-1 win over Nigeria in the semifinal of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations on Sunday.
Although the result looked close and it took a Riyad Mahrez sublimely taken free kick in added time to give the Desert Foxes the win, in truth, Algeria could have won by a bigger margin – such was their dominance and the ease with which they repeatedly breached Nigeria’s backline especially in an excellent first half showing.
Algeria’s win was all the more impressive for the way the completely stopped Nigeria from playing save for a fifteen-minute spell in the second half in which Nigeria equalized through Odion Ighalo’s spot kick.
And Belmadi said his tactical plan had centred on nullifying the threat of Nigeria’s wingers, pressing the midfield, denying space to the midfielders and exploiting Nigeria’s lack of pace in central defence.
“We had to make a plan against this team; we knew that their strength is the speed of [Ahmed] Musa and [Samuel Chukwueze],” the 43-year-old former Algeria international said at the post-match press conference.
“And we knew that sometimes they play very direct, especially when they find space behind us, [so] we tried to close the space on the side and we try also to put pressure on the midfielders and Sofiane Feghouli, [Baghdad] Bounedjah and Ismael Bennacer had a great game for us.
“And for our striker, we also asked to press as much as he can and run around behind the two central defenders [because] I believe that speed is not their strength – they are good, they’re experienced players but I believed they have a challenge when you run around them so this is what we tried to do and I think it worked.”