Belmadi defends Mahrez from critics ahead of Burkina Faso clash

Ahmed Seif , Friday 19 Jan 2024

Algerian coach Djamel Belmadi has thrown his support behind skipper Riyad Mahrez amid criticism following the national team's opening draw against Angola in the African Cup of Nations (AFCON).

Algeria s forward #7 Riyad Mahrez shoots but fails to score during the Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2024 group D football match between Algeria and Angola at Stade de la Paix in Bouake on January 15, 2024. AFP


Mahrez, the 32-year-old Champions League winner with Manchester City, faced flak from some media and fans after a lacklustre performance in the 1-1 stalemate with Angola.

However, Belmadi brushed aside the criticism, calling it a long-standing trend and highlighting Mahrez's dedication to the national team.

"Mahrez is always criticized, and it started a long time ago, he gives his best with the national team, and yet he is criticized," Belmadi said.

Belmadi emphasized that statistics and criticism would not deter his team's focus on the tournament.

"We do not let the statistics distract us. Of course, numbers are important, but we don't think about them. The criticisms will never affect us, and we will continue to work," he asserted.

The Fennec Foxes, seeking to reclaim the title they won in 2019, need a victory against Burkina Faso to stay on track for the knockout stage and avoid a repeat of their group-stage exit in Cameroon two years ago.

Belmadi acknowledged the challenge posed by Burkina Faso, who are sitting at the top of Group D after a 2-0 win over Mauritania.

"Burkina Faso is a very strong team and showed that in the last match against Mauritania, so the match will be difficult, and the timing of the match is bad," he said, referring to the 4 pm local kick-off.

Despite the recent setback, Belmadi exuded confidence in his team's experience and ability to bounce back.

"This is the third occasion in which I am asked about the last African Cup of Nations 2021, we do not cry over the past, and it does not come to our minds. We have the experience to return," he remarked.

  Algeria’s next game will be against Burkina Faso on Saturday, before facing Mauritania in the group stage’s last game on 23 January.

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