Algeria's African cup triumph an 'incredible' feat

CAIRO • Algeria coach Djamel Belmadi lauded his side's "incredible" Africa Cup of Nations triumph on Friday as Baghdad Bounedjah's early goal earned a 1-0 victory over Senegal in the final.

Bounedjah gave Algeria a dream start at the Cairo International Stadium when his shot in the second minute took a deflection off Salif Sane and looped over the bewildered goalkeeper Alfred Gomis.

The strike was enough to propel Algeria to a first Cup of Nations title in 29 years, and the country's first on foreign soil, having lifted the trophy as hosts in 1990.

"I'm very happy. Our whole nation, our people were waiting for this second star for a long time," said Belmadi, who took charge of a squad in disarray last August.

"It's our first Cup of Nations won away from home. It's incredible.

"I took over a team that were really struggling. To do what we've been able to do, and to put ourselves on the top of Africa in 10 months, is extraordinary."

The steely coach signalled his intent early in his reign when he said his ambition was to make a run at the title in Egypt, despite inheriting a team that crashed out in the 2017 group stage and then fared woefully in World Cup qualifying.

"I said we were going to the Cup of Nations to win. I wanted to send a strong message to the players, to tell them I was committing to a strong project. Titles are what interest me," he recalled.

Senegal, beaten by Cameroon on their only previous appearance in the final in 2002, were awarded a penalty for handball in the second half but the decision was revoked following a VAR (video assistant referee) review.

For Aliou Cisse's men, who also lost to Algeria 1-0 in the group stage, the wait for a first crown goes on.

"We conceded the goal very early and on the whole, I think we deserved to equalise but it didn't happen," said Cisse, on the losing end in the first title decider to feature two African coaches since 1998.

"When you concede a goal so early, you have to attack against an aggressive defence and we weren't able to find the solutions."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 21, 2019, with the headline 'Algeria's African cup triumph an 'incredible' feat'. Print Edition | Subscribe