Tuesday will mark the end of a year that will live long in the memory of Algeria fans, thanks to the success achieved by the national team under coach Djamel Belmadi.
Inspired by the likes of Riyad Mahrez, Isamael Bennacer, Ramy Bensebaini, Youcef Atal, Djamal Benlamri, Youcef Belaili and Baghdad Bounedjah, the Desert Warriors made history by winning the CAF Africa Cup of Nations on foreign soil for the first time, and all in the first edition to feature 24 teams.
July 2019: Algeria return to the African throne
Algeria’s Africa Cup of Nations campaigns had long been disappointing to say the least, which had the fans doubting Belmadi’s ability to bring the trophy back from Cairo. His side made a strong start to the tournament, however, winning their opener against Kenya and then beating a tough Senegal side before the second string concluded the group stage with victory over Tanzania.
Belmadi’s charges had no difficulty seeing off Guinea in the last 16 before dumping Côte d’Ivoire out of the competition on penalties in a very tight quarter-final. The Desert Warriors maintained their momentum when Mahrez’s sublime free-kick gave them a hard-fought win over Nigeria in the semis, with a Bounedjah strike then securing victory against Senegal in the final.
FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking: a rise of 34 places
At the beginning of 2019, Algeria lay 69th in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking, the result of a string of friendly defeats and their failure to qualify for Russia 2018. Then came Belmadi, who was given the task of taking the team to Egypt 2019. Though the Algerians kicked off their qualification campaign with a draw against Gambia and a defeat away to Benin in 2018, Belmadi got them back to winning ways, with a 4-1 win in Togo their most impressive result en route to Egypt.
Algeria tuned up for the finals with some morale-boosting friendly victories and their winning run saw them streak to the African title and then beat Colombia 3-0 in a friendly played in France. That notable upturn in form has taken them up to 35th at year’s end, a rise of 34 places over the last 12 months.
2019: 12 wins, four draws, no defeats
Algeria went unbeaten in their 16 matches in 2019, a run made all the more impressive by the fact they faced some strong opposition along the way, in the shape of Nigeria, Senegal (twice), Colombia and Côte d’Ivoire.
Unbeaten in 18
Algeria’s golden 2019 means they are now undefeated in 18 matches in all. Thanks to their fearsome front line and solid defence, Belmadi’s Algeria scored 33 goals in 2019 and conceded a mere eight.
Belmadi a contender for the Best
Aside from Algeria’s achievements as a team, Belmadi earned recognition for himself when he was nominated for The Best FIFA Men’s Coach 2019 award and came fourth in voting, just missing out on a place among the three finalists. Speaking to FIFA.com, he said: “It’s an honour to be on the list of the best ten coaches, especially alongside big names like [Pep] Guardiola and [Jurgen] Klopp, who have fine coaching philosophies.”