BY STEVE AYOO
Ivory Coast manager Ibrahim Camara has warned his side against focusing primarily on Riyad Mahrez as his side prepares to take on Algeria in the quarterfinals of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations.
The two titans clash in Suez with a semifinal spot up for grabs.
Mahrez has been key to Algeria’s run to the quarterfinals and scored the second goal in the 3-0 defeat of Guinea in the round of 16, his second strike in the tournament.
However, while not downplaying Mahrez’s influence in the Algerian squad, Camara has made his side fully aware of the other dangers that lurk.
“Algeria is a great team,” he said.
“They do not play only with Riyad Mahrez. If so, the other players would stay in the locker room.
“We will face a team that’s difficult to handle.”
Camara’s side needed a second half goal from Wilfried Zaha to beat a Mali side who created enough chances to win the last 16 battle.
Zaha has started the last two games for the Elephants and scored in both of them and Camara will likely give the Crystal Palace man another starting role.
Algeria are yet to concede a goal in the tournament but face an Ivory Coast side who have scored in all but one of their four matches.
The Foxes’ head coach Djamel Belmadi says his side should be ready to give a reaction should the potent Ivorian attack find a way past keeper Rais M’Bolhi.
He said: “We have to have a good reaction in the case of conceding a goal, a scenario that until now we’ve not experienced during this AFCON. We’d need to recover our poise and change the game in our favor.”
Algeria have gone past the quarterfinals only once since lifting the title in 1990, a period from which the Ivory Coast have gone on to win the title twice (1992, 2015) and finished at least fourth on four other occasions.
The duo have met seven times at Afcon with the Elephants winning three to Algeria’s two wins, the other two ended level. Meetings at the quarters have yielded a win apiece. The two are giants of African football and although Ivory Coast have had better success, Algeria go into the match as the favorites. This match could be decided by how the Elephants defence will deal with the pace and skill of the Algeria attack, and if Zaha and Co can deliver on the other end. Methinks Algeria will prevail 2-1 in normal time.