There is palpable tension on the streets of Algiers ahead of Algeria’s crucial 2022 World Cup qualifying tie against Cameroon.
The two African heavyweights both missed the 2018 edition in Russia and are desperate to make an appearance in Qatar this November.
A few months ago, Algeria would have been seen as clear favourites. Heading into the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations as defending champions, a 35-match unbeaten streak came to an end in embarrassing fashion as the North Africans were eliminated in the group stage without winning a game.
The catastrophic showing in Cameroon, including a goalless draw with Sierra Leone and a 1-0 loss to Equatorial Guinea, halted any momentum and plunged the Fennecs into uncertainty.
That tension came to the fore on Sunday morning at coach Djamel Belmadi’s pre-match press conference.
Two journalists, known for asking tough and sometimes critical questions of Algerian Football Federation officials, were barred from entering the conference room. Then, when another asked the coach why Charleroi midfielder Adem Zorgane had not been selected, Belmadi snapped.
“Have you ever played football? You don’t have the physique of a footballer or even of an athlete to tell me that he (Zorgane) deserves to be called up,” the coach demanded.
“Stay in your places, you are no one to tell me that he deserves (to be called up).”