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What Algeria need to qualify for last 16

By Gowon Akpodonor
20 January 2022   |   2:49 am
If Algeria’s task today wasn’t already crystal clear, the sight of Ghana exiting the Africa Cup of Nations to minnows Comoros on Tuesday will have focused their minds, reports manchestereveningnews.co.uk..

Algeria’s forward Riyad Mahrez (R) and Algeria’s coach Djamel Belmadi (C) attend a press conference at the Japoma Stadium in Douala on January 19, 2022 on the eve of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) football match between Ivory Coast and Algeria. (Photo by Charly TRIBALLEAU / AFP)

If Algeria’s task today wasn’t already crystal clear, the sight of Ghana exiting the Africa Cup of Nations to minnows Comoros on Tuesday will have focused their minds, reports manchestereveningnews.co.uk..

Algeria, defending AFCON champions and one of the pre-tournament favourites, have just one point from their opening two group games, and are still yet to score, with one game remaining.

Riyad Mahrez’s side are bottom of Group E ahead of their toughest group clash against Cote d’Ivoire today, knowing they must win to keep their hopes of reaching the last-16 alive. If they don’t win, Mahrez could be returning to Manchester earlier than expected.

Not only must Algeria win, but they will also rely on the result in other group game between Equatorial Guinea and Sierra Leone, while a third-place finish could see them hoping for other results to go their way to scrape through as one of the best nations finishing third in their groups.

Algeria currently have a -1 goal difference. Sierra Leone, who drew with Mahrez’s side on the opening round of fixtures, have two points and a goal difference of zero, while Equatorial Guinea also have a neutral goal difference and currently occupy the second qualification spot on three points. Cote d’Ivoire are top with four points and +1 goal difference.

If Algeria beat Cote d’Ivoire, they will finish their group on four points, level with their opponents. In the case of two teams being level on points, the head-to-head result is taken into account, so Algeria would finish above Cote d’Ivoire in that regard.

However, with Equatorial Guinea and Sierra Leone playing each other, one of those sides are guaranteed to finish above Algeria.

If Equatorial Guinea win or draw, they will go ahead of Algeria after beating them in the last game. If Sierra Leone win, they would be guaranteed to finish above Algeria on five points.

So, a win for Algeria would be enough to progress in second place, as they would finish above Cote d’Ivoire but below Equatorial Guinea or Sierra Leone.

If Algeria drew with Cote d’Ivoire, they would finish on two points and be knocked out of the competition at the first hurdle of their AFCON defence.

In order to finish third, they would need Sierra Leone to lose by two goals, as they would be level on points and head-to-head record, with overall goal difference the next deciding factor.

However, with only the four third-placed nations with the best record receiving a lifeline to the next round, Algeria already know two points won’t be enough as four teams currently have three or more points.

The task is simple for Algeria – win and qualify, with anything less marking an early exit just two-and-a-half years after winning the competition.

Algeria drew 0-0 with Sierra Leone and were shocked in a 1-0 defeat to Equatorial Guinea in their opening two games.

If Algeria do survive to fight another day, Algeria know they will face the winners of Group F, who wrap up their group later today. Gambia currently occupy top spot in that group, ahead of Mali on their head-to-head record. They will top the group by beating Tunisia in their last match, or simply by matching Mali’s result. Mali must win and hope Gambia don’t to finish top, while Tunisia could leapfrog both sides if they beat Gambia in their last match and Mali fail to beat Mauritania.