AFCON: Defending Champions Algeria Crash-out After Defeat to Cote D’Ivoire

The Africa Cup of Nations Cup defending champions Algeria were knocked out of the 2021 edition on Thursday when they lost 3-1 to the Elephants, who finished top of Group E.

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And it is Deja vu all over again as the Foxes repeated history. The first time Algeria came to AFCON as defending champions, after winning the 1990 edition, they were bundled out of the 1992 edition in the group stage as they came bottom of a three-country group that also contained the Elephants.

After winning the FIFA Arab Cup in December 2021, it was expected that the Foxes would be in a buoyant mood to defend their title but it has all fallen flat in the hot and humid conditions in Cameroon.

Ismael Bennacer hit the woodwork in the 21st minute as Algeria tried to rattle the Elephants.

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Simon Deli and Serge Aurier were both cautioned in the 12th minute. Deli, for a flailing hand in the face of Baghdad Bounedjah. Aurier was shown his yellow card for dissent and a vehement argument with the South African referee, Victor Gomes.

Franck Kessi scored the opener from a good team move in the 22nd minute after Nicolas Pepe had jinked his way into the box. Kessie’s side-foot finish was elegant. Ibrahim Sangare added the second with a free header from a free-kick by Aurier.

Islam Slimani replaced Said Benrahma at the start of the second half but it was the Elephants who scored again through a delightful curled effort from Pepe. Nine minutes into the second half, it was all but game over for the Foxes.

Referee Gomes awarded Algeria a generous penalty in the 57th minute when Youcef Belaïli ran into Deli. But when it is not your day, everything goes sideways. A quiet Riyad Mahrez hit the right post as the lifeline faded.

Cote d’Ivoire manager Patrice Beaumelle made sensible substitutions in the 68th minute as Wilfried Kanon came on for the carded Deli; goalscorer, Sangare, was taken off for their veteran midfielder Serey Die, 37, while Aurier came off for Habib Maiga.

Sofiane Bendebka then headed a consolation in the 73rd minute as the clock ran down. Sebastien Haller thought he had headed the fourth but he was clearly offside when Maiga delivered the cross.

Almost to the day, twenty years ago, on January 13, 1992, the Foxes lost 3-0 to the Elephants.

History was repeated on January 20, 2022, defending champions are on their way back to Algiers, licking their wounds and hoping to turn everything around before the last round of World Cup qualifiers in March.

In the other group encounter, Equatorial Guinea cemented their second-round qualification with a 1-0 win over Sierra Leone.

The Elephants will face the Pharaohs of Egypt in Douala on January 26 while the Equatorial Guineans will play Group F winners in Limbe on January 26.

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Yussif Alhassan Uthman

Yussif is an experienced sports writer with passion to go the extra mile to source for information

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