Mahrez reveals why Algeria must replicate AFCON 2019 opening clash showing against Harambee Stars on Angola

Algeria's Riyard Mahrez contests for the ball with Kenya's Dennis Odhiambo during the 2019 AFCON.

FOOTBALL Mahrez reveals why Algeria must replicate AFCON 2019 opening clash showing against Harambee Stars on Angola

Mark Kinyanjui 18:04 - 10.01.2024

Mahrez opines why Algeria must replicate their opening 2019 AFCON performance over Harambee Stars to stand a chance of winning the tournament again this year.

Algeria captain Riyad Mahrez has revealed his teammates must replicate their 2019 opening-day heroics to stand a chance of winning the Africa Cup of Nations  for the third time in their history.

The Desert Foxes whitewashed every team they faced en-route to winning that tournament, which was held in Egypt in June 2019, including their opening match against Harambee Stars.

A Baghdad Bounedjah penalty, as well as Mahrez's deflected strike handed Algeria victory courtesy of a well choreographed first half performance.

Algeria have struggled to set the world alight since, as they crushed out of the 2021 edition and failed to qualify for the 2022 World Cup, but Mahrez believes that getting off to a good start against Angola will help their quest to return to glory.

"Making a good start is often crucial. We beat Kenya in our opening match in 2019 and won the tournament. We drew with Sierra Leone three years later and flopped, " Mahrez told the media ahead of the start of the tournament.

The former Manchester City man has also revealed other factors that could count in their favor 

"Whichever country is the best prepared and enjoys a little bit of luck will go all the way.

"Experience is also a major factor. I and many teammates in the Algerian squad know all about the Cup of Nations.”

Born in a northern Paris suburb, Mahrez qualifies for Algeria because his late father was born in the oil-rich north African country.

"I visited the village where my father was born every year and felt a deep sense of belonging. I was really close to the people, and to my adopted homeland."

Mahrez recalls with visible joy the reception the Desert Foxes received when they conquered Africa five years ago by defeating Senegal 1-0 in a final won by a Baghdad Bounedjah goal.

"The bus parade was supposed to take 30 minutes, but actually lasted seven hours. The passion of the people was incredible. I have not witnessed it in any other country."

Algeria, with a mix of 2019 survivors and new blood, are favourites to win Group D at the 2024 finals, which kick off in the Ivory Coast commercial capital Abidjan on Saturday.

They are the top seeds in a section including Burkina Faso, a team with second, third and fourth place finishes in their past four appearances, and outsiders Angola and Mauritania.

The top two in the final standings automatically advance to the round of 16 and it would be a shock if Algeria and Burkina Faso did not fill those positions.

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