Thursday 16 December 2021, 00:00

Bedrane: Title is Algeria's sole objective

  • Abdelkader Bedrane was key to Algeria reaching final

  • Decider against Tunisia will be special for Esperance player

  • Defender discusses triumph over Qatar and ambitions for final

Last night’s semi-final between Algeria and Qatar at the FIFA Arab Cup™ served up a wonderfully dramatic finale. Having taken the lead courtesy of a Djamel Benlamri header, Les Fennecs sat back and invited pressure from Al Annabi, who finally levelled proceedings in the 97th minute through Mohammed Muntari, much to the delight of the home support at the Al Thumama Stadium. After the match, caught up with Algeria’s defensive stalwart Abdelkader Bedrane, who spoke about that thrilling climax. "We experienced a lot of pressure during the match, because we were playing against Qatar, the tournament hosts . It wasn’t an easy match at all, but our team’s togetherness made the difference at the end,” he explained. With the match seemingly headed for extra time, Algeria were awarded a penalty, which Youcef Belaili converted on the rebound after his initial effort was saved by Alsheeb. Asked if they doubted they would win after Qatar’s equalizer, he said: "Although we conceded a late goal, we believed in our chances, as we know we can score at any moment. We weren’t emotionally affected by that goal, and we continued to play with confidence. We told each other the game was still up for grabs and that we could win and make the final.”

Special encounter

Bedrane has been plying his trade with Tunisia’s Esperance since 2019 and will be facing several team-mates in what is sure to be a special final for him.

“It’s true that I play in the Tunisian league, but here I’m representing Algeria, so it goes without saying that I’ll be defending my country’s colours,” he explained. “When we play for the national team, there’s no room for emotions. The game against Tunisia will be difficult. We know each other very well but we’ll do all we can to win,” the defender added. Algeria have continued their successful run at this Arab Cup, and Bedrane believes that any team that can stay undefeated against Egypt, Morocco and Qatar deserves the ultimate prize. “Reaching the final and then winning it have been our main goals here in Qatar. Our campaign hasn’t been easy. We’ve played against big teams such as Egypt, Morocco and Qatar, all of which were very physically demanding games,” he explained. "We’ve achieved our first goal, so now we’ll rest a bit and then focus on the final. Winning the title is now our sole objective,” he insisted.

Thousand-mile journey starts with single step

That saying perfectly sums up Bedrane’s career. The 29-year-old got his first taste of professional football with USM Blida, playing in the second and third divisions in Algeria, before moving ES Setif and then Esperance of Tunisia. Bedrane’s sustained development caught the attention of Algeria coach Djamal Belmadi, who has made him a mainstay for Les Fennecs’ defence alongside Benlamri and Aissa Mandi during FIFA World Cup™ and Africa Cup of Nations qualifying. Speaking about his career and the secrets of his success, Bedrane said: "Since coming to Tunisia, I’ve been doing well technically, physically and mentally, and all the hard work is paying off. I should also mention that I learned a lot during my time with SM Blida and ES Setif. My goal was always to play for the national team, and I’ve achieved that now.” Before singing off, Bedrane wanted to send a message to the Algerian fans, who came out to support them against the hosts "We’re very happy to have made the final, and we dedicate this milestone to the Algerian people living in Qatar and those who came to support us from other parts of the world,” he concluded.