Nigeria and Algeria have a footballing rivalry stretching a long time that might arguably be just bettered by the Cameroon and Ghana ‘tug-of-war’ over the years.
Saturday’s 2018 World Cup qualifier in Uyo will pitch two of Africa’s football giants against each other in what potential could be the divide between who makes it to Russia 2018 or not.
Algeria dropped points at home to Cameroon while Nigeria nicked three off Zambia in Ndola to top Group B going into Match Day Two.
A win for Nigeria will see the Super Eagles move a step closer to the dream of a third straight World Cup with Algeria needing a miracle of sorts depending on what happens between Cameroon and Zambia in Limbe.
Encounters between both sides have always been entertaining and unpredictable since the first time they met in 1973 at the All Africa Games in Lagos. That duel ended 2-2 but there have been 16 matches between both sides since then.It is pertinent to note that both teams qualified for the World Cup for the first time at the expense of each other.
Algeria qualified for her first ever World Cup appearance at Spain ‘82 by beating Nigeria in the final rounds while Nigeria returned the favour in 1993 on that cold windy night in Constantine to pick a ticket for USA ‘94.
Algerian fans are known to be among the most passionate in Africa
Ironically, Nigeria defeated Algeria 3-0 to win her first ever Africa Cup of Nations title in 1980 on home soil. Ten years later, it was pay-back time as Algeria defeated Nigeria 1-0 to win her first Africa Cup of Nations title in 1990...wait for it...on home soil too.
In total, 17 matches have been played between the two teams over the years with Nigeria slighting edging out Algeria on number of wins. The Eagles have won eight games, drawn three and lost six of those.
Head to Head:
Nigeria v Algeria
10 Jan 1973: Nigeria 2 Algeria 2 (All Africa Games, Lagos)
22 Mar 1980: Nigeria 3 Algeria 0 (Africa Cup of Nations, Lagos)
10 Oct 1981: Nigeria 0 Algeria 2 (World Cup Qualifier, Lagos)
30 Oct 1981: Algeria 2 Nigeria 1 (World Cup Qualifier Constantine)
10 Mar 1982: Algeria 2 Nigeria 1 (Africa Cup of Nations, Benghazi)
11 Mar 1984: Algeria 0 Nigeria 0 (Africa Cup of Nations, Bouake)
15 Jan 1988: Algeria 1 Nigeria 0 (Olympics Qualifier, Annaba)
30 Jan 1988: Nigeria 2 Algeria 0 (Olympics Qualifier, Enugu)
23 Mar 1988: Algeria 1 Nigeria 1 (Africa Cup of Nations, Rabat: Nigeria won 9-8 penalties)
2 Mar 1990: Algeria 5 Nigeria 1 (Africa Cup of Nations, Algiers)
16 Mar 1990: Algeria 1 Nigeria 0 (Africa Cup of Nations, Algiers)
13 July 1993: Nigeria 4 Algeria 1 (World Cup Qualifier, Lagos)
8 Oct 1993: Algeria 1 Nigeria 1 (World Cup Qualifier, Algiers)
21 Jan 2002: Algeria 0 Nigeria 1 (Africa Cup of Nations, Bamako)
3 July 2004: Nigeria 1 Algeria 0 (World Cup Qualifier, Abuja)
4 Sept 2005: Algeria 2 Nigeria 5 (World Cup Qualifier, Oran)
30 Jan 2010: Algeria 0 Nigeria 1 (Africa Cup of Nations, Benguela)
Come tomorrow Nigerian fans will be in full song in Uyo....especially if their team wins.
1980 Africa Cup of Nations Final
National Stadium, Lagos, Nigeria
Nigeria 3 (Segun Odegbami-2, Muda Lawal) Algeria 0
Nigeria line up: Best Ogedengbe, David Adiele, Tunde Bamidele, Christian Chukwu, Godwin Odiye, Aloysius Atuegbu, Felix Owolabi, Okey Isima, Segun Odegbami, Adokiye Amiesimaka, Muda Lawal.
Algeria line up: Mehdi Cerba, Chaabane Mezerkane, Abdelkader Horr, Mohammed Kedis, Mustapha Koiuci, Bouzid Mahyouz, Ali Fergani, Lakdar Belloumi, Salah Assad, Tedj Bensaoula, Hocine Benmiloudi.
Group B has three of Africa’s five representatives at the last World Cup in Brazil. Unfortunately, only one of the two will be at Russia 2018 so also Cameroon who were also in Brazil. Nigeria and Algeria made the second round of the tournament while Cameroon exited after the group stage.
Unfortunately only one of the three will make it to Russia 2018 if Zambia doesn’t upset the apple-cart and nick the sole ticket ahead of her more illustrious Group B rivals.
Group B as it stands
P W D L GF GA GD PTS POS
1.Nigeria 1 1 0 0 2 1 +1 3 1
2.Cameroon 1 0 1 0 1 1 0 1 2
3.Algeria 1 0 1 0 1 1 0 1 2
4.Zambia 1 0 0 1 1 2 -1 0 4
Algeria will be without at least five key players who were called up initially by George Leekens due to injury.
The latest to pull out of the World Cup qualifier against Nigeria is Napoli’s left back Faouzi Ghoulam who had to withdraw from the squad to Uyo because of a thigh complaint but Leekens is looking to run the rule over the defender and he might face a late fitness test.
Adam Ounas, who was supposed to get his first cap against Nigeria also pulled out due to injury while the midfield duo of Rachid Ghezzal and Ryad Boudebouz, as well as striker Hilal Soudani, are also out of the game.
The Super Eagles will be missing first choice goalkeeper Carl Ikeme who sustained an injury during a league game for his English Championship side Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Players to watch
Nigeria and Algeria have some of the continent’s best players and quite a few will be on show on match day. Riyad Mahrez is Algeria’s main man and the conductor of Leekens orchestra. The Leicester City man usually plays from the right side of Algeria’s attack which allows him room to cut back on his favourite left foot to unleash havoc.
Foxes for country, foxes for club, Mahrez and Slimani are as deadly as they come.
He is also deadly at set pieces as his goals in the Uefa Champions League and the English Premier League attests. The Eagles will do well to shut him down and stop him from supplying Islam Slimani with pin point crosses.
Nigeria will welcome back Victor Moses [below] to the fold after missing the game against Zambia due to injury. The former Wigan FC man is enjoying a new lease of life under new Chelsea coach Antonio Conte and seems to have rediscovered his form albeit playing from a new wing back role.
Wherever Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr choses to play Moses, his pace and trickery will always worry defenders and Algeria may just get a dose of the ‘new’ Victor Moses on Saturday.
What they said
“We don’t need to speak too much but we will try to concentrate on ourselves. “We also want Nigerians to know that the game against Algeria on Saturday is not going to be easy.
“Any side playing against Nigeria these days tend to raise their game so we know the task ahead of us.
“We don’t want to talk too much to the press but just focus on what we have to do.
“We just pray for God to give us the grace to get all three points on Saturday.”
Ogenyi Onazi (Nigeria midfielder)
“We cannot afford any mistakes,” said Bentaleb, whose recent form has seen him fire five goals in the German Bundesliga.
“Nigeria is a quality team, but Algeria has the class to get a result in Nigeria. We are feared in Africa.”
Nabil Bentaleb (Algeria midfielder)
Goalkeepers: Daniel Akpeyi (Chippa United) Ikechukwu Ezenwa (FC IfeanyiUbah), Dele Alampasu (FC Cesarense, Portugal)
Defenders: Leon Balogun (FSV Mainz 05, Germany), William Troost-Ekong (Haugesund FC, Norway), Kenneth Omeruo (Alanyaspor FC, Turkey), Uche Henry Agbo (Granada FC, Spain), Abdullahi Shehu (Anorthosis Famagusta, Cyprus), Musa Muhammed (Istanbul Basaksehir, Turkey), Elderson Echiejile (Standard Liege, Belgium), Kingsley Madu (SV Zulte Waregem, Belgium)
Midfielders: Mikel John Obi (Chelsea, England), Ogenyi Onazi (Trabzonspor FC, Turkey), Wilfred Ndidi (KRC Genk, Belgium), Oghenekaro Etebo (CD Feirense, Portugal), John Ogu (Hapoel Be’er Sheva, Israel)
Attackers: Ahmed Musa (Leicester City, England), Kelechi Iheanacho (Manchester City, England), Moses Simon (KAA Gent, Belgium), Victor Moses (Chelsea FC, England), Odion Ighalo (Watford FC, England), Brown Ideye (Olympiacos FC, Greece), Alex Iwobi (Arsenal FC, England)
Goalkeepers : Raïs Ouhab M’bolhi (Antalyaspor), Malik Asselah (JS Kabylie), Chemseddine Rahmani (MO Béjaïa)
Defenders : Carl Medjani (CD Leganès), Hicham Belkaroui (Espérance de Tunis), Liassine Cadamuro (Servette Genèva),Aïssa Mandi (Real Bétis), Faouzi Ghoulam (SSC Naples), Jean Mehdi Tahrat (SCO Angers), Houari Ferhani (JS Kabylie), Mohamed Khoutir Ziti (ES Sétif)
Midfielders :Yassine Brahimi (FC Porto), Sofiane Feghouli (West Ham United), Adlène Guedioura (Watford FC), Saphir Taïder (Bologna FC), Nabil Bentaleb (Schalke 04), Mehdi Abeid (Dijon FCO)Sofiane Bendebka (Hussein Dey)
Attackers :Islam Slimani, Riyad Mahrez (Leicester City FC), Sofiane Hanni (RSC Anderlecht)