Russia 2018: Algeria Shifts Focus to Nations Cup

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Olawale Ajimotokan in Abuja

President of Algeria Football Federation (FAF) Mohamed Raouraoua has declared that the north African nation was now reassessing its objective from qualifying for World Cup 2018 by now placing emphasis on how to impress at the Africa Cup of Nations in Gabon next January.

The Fennecs aspiration to reach their fifth FIFA World Cup finals in Russia was compromised by a ruthless Nigeria which crushed the Algerians 3-1 in the Group B fixture on Saturday in Uyo.

The loss has realistically made topping Group B a daunting proposition for the Algerians coached by George Leekens as they are now required to win all remaining four matches to stand a chance.
Local Algerian news sources quoted Raouraoua insisting on Sunday night in Algiers, at the draws for the 32nd Algerian FA Cup, that FAF would forget the set-back against Nigeria by pursuing a realistic objective of staking a bid for Algeria’s third Africa Cup Nations title in Gabon.
The Fennecs will play in Group B with Senegal, Tunisia and Zimbabwe at the tournament that holds between January 14 and February 5, 2017.

“We should forget the World Cup defeat and seriously begin to think about the Nations Cup in Gabon which is a goal for the Desert Foxes. We will have to disregard the defeat against Nigeria and the 2018 World Cup qualifiers in Russia and think about what is very close,-the Africa Cup of Nations in Gabon. The Nations Cup is a very interesting challenge for our national team, which will fancy returning with the trophy to Algiers as African champions.

“Football is not an exact science. Who would have thought that Cameroun would lose two points at home to Zambia? We need to think about the near future and correct the gaps in the group. In September next year, we have four matches to play, and by then we will have a better team with much more means,” Raouraoua declared.

But should the Super Eagles win their next two matches to attain the 12-point mark, the trip to Algiers may turn out inconsequential as Nigeria may have already secured the ticket to Russia.
According to a poll conducted by top Algerian football website DZFoot, 43 per cent of those polled said the Fennecs have lost out on reaching Russia 2018 after they slumped to a 3-1 loss in Nigeria at the weekend.

However, 31 per cent of the fans said it will be tough but possible to qualify because Nigeria will slip in the qualifiers after winning their first two matches.

Another 15 per cent said Algeria are often at their best when they have their backs against the wall and so they could still bounce back to advance to the next World Cup.

Eleven per cent of those polled have completely surrendered, saying it is only in Africa that three World Cup finalists are drawn in the same qualifying group.

Algeria will host Nigeria in the group’s last World Cup fixture in November 2017 in a match that will likely determine the sole qualifier of the group for the world’s biggest football competition.