Algeria v Guinea: Nothing less than glory good enough for Belmadi's men
Algeria coach Djamel Belmadi said his side will settle for nothing less than a first Africa Cup of Nations triumph in 29 years as they prepare to face Guinea in the round of 16.
The Desert Foxes have been the tournament's outstanding team so far, winning all three of their matches without conceding a goal to top Group C.
Belmadi is aiming to become the first coach to guide Algeria to AFCON glory away from home soil, with their only taste of glory coming in 1990 when they beat Nigeria in the final in Algiers.
The coach said Morocco's shock defeat to Benin on penalties after a 1-1 draw in extra-time gave his side a reminder of the precarity of the knockout stages.
"The group stage is like a little tournament, which we did well in," said Belmadi. "Each game now is a final.
"Morocco's loss surprised me. We have to be prepared mentally so that we don't follow. We didn't exactly need a wake-up call. If we do lose, it'll be because Guinea are the better team.
"We did not come to be the first of the group, we did not come to reach the semi-final, we came for a very different goal that we have not achieved for a very long time."
Opposite number Paul Put praised Belmadi's achievements so far and said his side's mental strength would be pivotal if they are to reach the quarter-finals.
Guinea have reached the AFCON final once, finishing as runners-up to Morocco in 1976, and they have won one of their three matches so far, beating debutants Burundi 2-0 last time out.
"We know we can perform against Algeria," said Put. "We have to be realistic in the game and stay focused throughout.
"Belmadi is an excellent manager, and tomorrow the difference [between the two sides] will be decided by how well we prepare mentally. Facing Algeria, we need to be 200 per cent focused."
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Algeria - Ismael Bennacer
Empoli midfielder Bennacer was Algeria's key player in the group stage. His energy and craft on the Algeria left will be vital as they seek to expose Guinea's defensive flaws.
Guinea – Mohamed Yattara
Goals in either half from Mohamed Yattara against Burundi revived Guinea's ailing AFCON campaign and Put will be relying on the Auxerre forward to bury any chances that fall his way in Cairo.
KEY OPTA FACTS
- It will be the third AFCON encounter between Algeria and Guinea. The record is balanced: Algeria won 3-2 in March 1980, Guinea 1-0 in February 1998, each time at the group stage.
- Since their only AFCON title (1990), Algeria have won just once in their last six games in the knockout phase of the tournament (L5 – excluding third place games). That was against Ivory Coast in the 2010 quarter-final.
- Algeria have won their last three AFCON games (2-0 v Kenya, 1-0 v Senegal, 3-0 v Tanzania); the Desert Foxes have done better only once in tournament history - the 1990 edition (five) when they lift their only continental trophy.
- Islam Slimani has been involved in five of Algeria's last eight goals in the Africa Cup of Nations (three goals, two assists).
- Guinea's defender Issiaga Sylla is the player with the most touches in the group stage of the Africa Cup of Nations 2019 (257).