Home » AFCON 2023: Algeria, Angola opens Group D, match preview, team News, all you need to know

AFCON 2023: Algeria, Angola opens Group D, match preview, team News, all you need to know

by Lesley Ngwa
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Algeria and Angola begin their quest for continental glory on Monday January 15, 2024 when they go head to head in Group D of the Africa Cup of Nations at the Stade de la Paix.

The North African powerhouse journey to Cote D’Ivoire in search of a third AFCON title, while the Palancas Negras have their sights on reaching the knockout stages for the first time since 2010.

Match preview

Having cruised through the qualifiers, Algeria are set to make a sixth consecutive AFCON appearance, their longest streak at the tournament since featuring in seven straight editions between 1980 and 1992.

Currently ranked 30th in the world, the Desert Foxes will be aiming to avoid a repeat of their 2021 embarrassment when they floundered in their title defence after a dismal group-stage run.

After clinching the continental crown in 2019, Algeria failed to win any of their three games in Group E, playing out a goalless draw with Sierra Leone in the group opener before suffering consecutive defeats against Equatorial Guinea and Cote D’Ivoire.

Djamel Belmadi’s men are one of seven nations to win multiple AFCON titles (2), first in 1990 when they beat Nigeria 1#0 in the final on home soil, and most recently in 2019, when Baghdad Bounedjah scored the only goal of the final to claim a 1#0 victory over Senegal.

Algeria head into Monday’s group curtain-raiser unbeaten in their last 13 outings across all competitions, claiming three draws and 10 wins, including successive victories over Somalia and Mozambique in the World Cup qualifiers, where they currently lead the way in Group G.

The North Africans were in action on Wednesday, when they cruised to a comfortable 4#0 victory over Burundi in their final warm-up friendly courtesy of goals from Bounedjah, Riyad Mahrez, Islam Slimani and Mohamed El Amine Amoura.

Algeria will be backing themselves to carry on with that momentum and get underway in Bouake on a high as they take on an Angola side who are winless in eight of their last nine encounters since March 1985.

The most recent encounter between the two nations came in the Africa Cup of Nations back in January 2010; their first and only AFCON meeting when they played out a goalless draw at the Estadio da Cidadela.

Making their ninth AFCON appearance, Angola are returning to the continental showpiece for the first time since 2019, having failed to progress from the qualifiers in the last two editions.

The goal for the Palancas Negras will be to at least secure a place in the knockout stages, having failed to make it out of the group-stage phase since 2010, when they fell to a 1#0 defeat against Ghana in the quarter-finals.

Tasked with leading the Central Africans is Portuguese tactician Pedro Goncalves, who coached the nation’s Under-17 and Under-20 set-ups before his senior appointment in August 2019.

The 47-year-old watched from the dugout as his side cruised to a 3-0 victory over Bahrain in their final warm-up friendly last Wednesday.

Angola, who have progressed from the AFCON group stages only twice, will have to show their mettle in Cote D’Ivoire, as they contend with Burkina Faso and two-time African champions Algeria and Mauritania.

They head into Monday’s game unbeaten in their last five opening games; claiming one win and four draws with their last opening-day defeat coming in 2006, when they were beaten 3#1 by Cameroon.

Team News

Belmadi has named an experienced 26-man squad for their AFCON campaign, with the likes of Slimani, Sofiane Feghouli and former Manchester City attacker Mahrez headlining the team.

Slimani is currently the Desert Foxes’ leading scorer with 45 goals in 98 appearances and is three caps away climbing up to first place in the nation’s all-time appearances chart.

While they are yet to make their senior debut, the duo of Metz goalkeeper Alexandre Oukidja and 21-year-old Farense midfielder Bachir Belloum have also been named in the Algeria squad.

Rayan Ait-Nouri has been on song for Wolverhampton Wanderers in the Premier League this season and should start in the back four, alongside Ramy Bensebaini, Aissa Mandi and Nice right-back Youcef Atal.

At the centre of the park, we should see the experienced trio of Feghouli, Nabil Bentaleb and AC Milan man Ismael Bennacer, while Fares Chaibi, Mahrez and Slimani should spearhead the attack once again.

While they may not have as many household names as their opponents, Angola have named a solid 27-man squad, including Konyaspor’s Bruno Paz and 27-year-old Gelson Dala.

Dala, who currently plays for Qatar outfit Al-Wakrah, is currently sixth in the nation’s scoring chart with 15 goals in 37 caps and is also their top scorer in AFCON with two goals under his belt.

Coach Goncalves can take a cautious approach on Monday, with To Carneiro, Jonathan Buatu-Mananga, Kialonda Gaspar and Loide Augusto forming the back four shielding Adilson Cipriano da Cruz between the sticks.

At the opposite end of the pitch, Dala should team up with Felicio Milson and Cagliari attacker Zito Luvumbo, while Manuel Keliano, Manuel Cafumana and Alfredo Kulembe Ribeiro should start in midfield.

Algeria possible starting XI

Mandrea; Atal, Bensebaini, Mandi, Ait Nouri; Feghouli, Bentaleb, Bennacer; Chaibi, Mahrez, Slimani

Angola possible starting XI

Adilson; Carneiro, Buatu-Mananga, Gaspar, Augusto; Keliano, Cafumana, Ribeiro; Luvumbo, Milson, Dala

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