Algeria Head Coach, Djamel Belmadi Speaks on Sierra Leone Draw
Algeria head coach Djamel Belmadi couldn’t help but point the finger at the climate in Cameroon after the reigning African Cup of Nations champions were held 0-0 by Sierra Leone in their opener on Tuesday.
The Fennecs dominated the ball but failed to prise open their rugged opponents during a frustrating encounter in Douala, with Sierra Leone stopper Mohamed Nbalie Kamara in inspired form to keep the likes of Riyad Mahrez, Islam Slimani and Sofiane Feghouli at bay.
While Belmadi insisted he wasn’t making excuses after the match, he couldn’t help himself but aim blame at the heat and humidity in the host country after his side’s poor showing.
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“Right now it is very humid, very hot, it’s not an excuse, I’m just saying that that weighs on the organism of every athlete, and notably the players who are used to—in the majority—playing in Europe,” he told journalists in his post-match press conference.
“I don’t insist on this, I said you have to make do with it. At this time of year [in Algeria] it’s very cold, right now at the time we’re playing. I’m not talking about June.”
The AFCON-winning coach appeared ruffled when questioned by a journalist during the post-match seance about whether he was hiding behind the conditions in order to make excuses for his side’s lacklustre performance against Africa’s 25th-ranked team.
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“Today in Algeria it is cold,” he added. “If you play at 14h, or 18h, it is cold. We don’t need to talk about that.
“We’re here in Cameroon, and we need to talk about this.”
Algeria registered 19 shots to Sierra Leone’s nine—with Mahrez particularly influential on the right flank—but were unable to find a way through the Leone Stars’ rugged backline.
As well as the excellent Kamara, who made a series of fine stops, captain Steven Caulker—a former England international—was an impassable presence in the heart of the defence.
The North African giants, who nonetheless extended their record undefeated streak against the Leone Stars, resume their Afcon group stage campaign against Equatorial Guinea on Sunday, before they face the Ivory Coast in a blockbuster showdown in their final group game.