By ZamChro Correspondent
Algeria beat hosts Zambia 2-0 Saturday (June 20th) at Konkola Stadium in Chililabombwe to take the lead in Group C of the African/World Cup combined qualifiers and prove that the historic win over Egypt was just the beginning of a spectacular run.
From Bechar to Batna, Saida to Skikda, cities across Algeria turned into a sea of green and white. Streets which had been empty while the match was televised were suddenly filled with jubilant fans.
The dream of seeing the national side make it through to the World Cup – for the first time since 1986 – is now a real possibility.
Despite a whirlwind start from the Copper Bullets, the Algerians skilfully fended off Zambia’s attacks. Hervé Renard’s players banked on their ability to surprise the Algerians right from the start of the match, but Algeria’s defenders stood their ground and gained in confidence, while their forwards began threatening Zambia’s defence.
The pressure culminated in the 21st minute when a free kick taken by Marseille midfielder Karim Ziani led to a goal by Glasgow Rangers defender Majid Bougherra. The breakthrough came at just the right moment for Rabah Saadane’s men to deal a body blow to their opponents.
Zambia’s attacks became more spirited but were all thwarted by the Algerian defence, where goalkeeper Lounes Gaouaoui reigned supreme and made decisive saves, including one where he used both fists to deflect a powerful shot by Given Singuluma in the 34th minute.
Algeria scored again during the second half, stunning their opponents in the 66th minute. Lorient midfielder Rafik Saifi, who had only just returned to the pitch in a substitution, took advantage of a great pass from Rafik Djebbour to make it 2-0.
The Algerian players then rallied in defence to fend off the ensuing counter-attacks. The strategy paid off; Zambia were visibly affected by Algeria’s advances and all their attempts missed the target.
The win confirmed the Greens’ pre-match confidence. They were determined to come back home from Zambia with a serious shot at qualifying for the World Cup.
“We now have an opportunity to take pole position in the race to the World Cup,” newly-selected Rafik Halliche commented before the match. “We basically have everything it takes to win,” he predicted, drawing inspiration from the team’s stunner over Egypt.
Zambia coach Renard [which means ‘fox’ in French], joked about his name and said that the difference between him and Saadane was that only one of them was a real fox (Saadane had previously claimed to be a “fox and a half”). Renard said Algeria would “come up against a dead end in Zambia”.
He was wrong.
Algeria now have seven points from three matches, three more than Zambia. The other Group C squads, Rwanda and Egypt, each have one point from two games. The group winners will qualify for the World Cup in South Africa.
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