Mali, Algeria eager to atone for bumpy starts

2010-01-13 11:01

 For Mali and Algeria, Thursday’s second Group A run out gives them

a second chance to prove their true worth after indifferent starts to their

Africa Cup of Nations campaigns.

In the case of Mali a miraculous fightback to grab a point against

Angola having looked down and out trailing by four goals with a quarter of an

hour to go masked a poor first half display that had Nigerian coach Stephen

Keshi shaking his head in frustration.

The Algerians for their part paid for an error-strewn tepid

performance 24 hours later when they were whipped 3-0 by outsiders Malawi, who

face Angola in the second leg of Thursday’s Group A double header at the

November 11 Stadium.

Keshi says his side were mentally shaken by the way they let Angola

race into what appeared an unassailable lead, before the hosts’ crumbled.

“The spirit was low after Angola,” Keshi reported.

“The players are aware of the mistakes they made on Sunday, but it

was a hard game played in a difficult atmosphere given the frantic support for

the home side.”

Barcelona midfielder Seydou Keita, who came off the bench to score

two goals, insisted his teammates had the mental strength to bounce back.

“Algeria may be in the World Cup but they’re in a tricky situation.

Our position is more favourable.

“The pressure is greater for them because if they drop points

against us qualification for the next round is going to be tough.”

Keshi was cautiously optimistic of being able to call up Juventus

midfielder Mohamed Sissoko, who has been battling a groin injury and missed

Sunday’s opener.

“Sissoko is better, but whether he plays or not I don’t

know.”

Mali will have to tread carefully on the disciplinary front, with

four players a booking away from a one match suspension, a quartet that includes

Keita, who bagged a double on Sunday with Frederic Kanoute and Mustapha

Yataboure contributing.

Over in the Algeria camp Rangers defender Madjid Bougherra said

sorry to the nation’s fans for Monday’s defeat to Malawi, a world apart from the

performance they put in to pip Egypt to the World Cup in November’s play-off in

Kartoum.

“We apologise to the Algerian people. We weren’t at the level

expected of us for this match.”

He blamed the shock loss in large part on the hot and humid

conditions - the game kicked off at 1445 local time. Thursday’s game is

scheduled for 1700.

“We couldn’t play at our real level because the heat handicapped us

greatly. There were moments where we couldn’t even walk on the field.

“We were expecting that kind of heat but it was clear that our

opponents were more used to it. We’ll have to bounce back against Mali, and it

won’t be as hot during that one.”

For Siena striker Abdelkader Ghezzal, Algeria got what was coming

to them against Malawi.

“We played badly and deserved to lose,” Ghezzal conceded.

“We had some good chances, but were not good enough to capitalise

on them.

“This defeat will do us well, as we need to rediscover the spirit

that allowed us to qualify for the World Cup.

“We now need to focus on our next match against Mali.”

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