Sayoud, Algeria’s unexpected hero

  • Amir Sayoud played against Sudan and then sat out four matches

  • Came on from the bench against Tunisia in the final

  • Discusses his goal in the tournament showpiece and Algeria’s Arab Cup triumph

Algeria’s Amir Sayoud had a strange FIFA Arab Cup Qatar 2021™. After appearing in Les Fennecs’ first game, against Sudan, he was an unused substitute for their next four, sitting out the matches with Lebanon, Egypt, Morocco, and Qatar. Then, with 66 minutes gone in Saturday’s final against Tunisia, coach Madjid Bougherra brought him on. Sayoud’s day got even better nine minutes into extra time, when he received the ball from Baghdad Bounedjah and curled an unstoppable left-foot shot into the top corner from 25 yards to give his side the lead.

After the match and award ceremony, FIFA.com caught up with Sayoud, who talked about his outstanding performance in the final, his wonder goal, and being named Player of the Match.

Reflecting on his up-and-down tournament, he said: “I didn't play in four matches and then came on as a substitute and scored in the final, which was something I just didn't expect.”

He added: “I wasn’t upset at being left out for a few games. I just kept working hard until I got the opportunity, and I’m happy how it all turned out in the end.”

Mental toughness

Having been left out for technical reasons, Sayoud was keen to make an impression when he came on. The 31-year-old was frowning, however, when he passed up a golden opportunity to put his side ahead, hesitating on the ball and allowing the Tunisian defence to clear after being put through on goal by Bounedjah.

Asked if he had doubted himself after missing that chance, he said: “Not at all. I kept doing my best to help the team. Tunisia left us some space and that allowed us to create opportunities.”

Reflecting on his goal, Sayoud said: “I took the ball from Baghdad in my stride, controlled it, and just hit it. I’m so pleased it went in.”

Just as they had done against Egypt, Morocco, and Qatar, Algeria had to sweat it out against Tunisia. “It was difficult game,” Sayoud explained. “They are a very strong team, and the physical factor played a big role. We’ve had tough games, starting with Lebanon, then Egypt, Morocco and Qatar, all of which were really draining.

“Also, don’t forget that we only had two days’ rest before the final, and compared to the other teams we had the toughest opponents. We put in a lot of effort, and it was our determination that made the difference in the end.”

Hopes for the future

Algeria head coach Djamel Belmadi has spoken on more than on one occasion about Sayoud’s capabilities and his chances of forcing his way into Les Fennecs’ squad, where competition is intense in every position. Undeterred, Sayoud is now dreaming of a place in Belmadi’s plans after his match-winning performance against Tunisia.

“Every player dreams of representing his country in big events such as the Africa Cup of Nations, so I hope to get a chance to take part in that tournament and the World Cup preliminaries.”

Having won the African crown in 2019 and now the inaugural FIFA Arab Cup, Algeria are turning their attention to World Cup qualification again, after missing out on Russia 2018.

“We definitely want to make the world finals,” Sayoud explained. “We’re the reigning African and Arab Cup champions and our next goal is to return to Qatar a year from now.”

Signing off with a message to the national team’s fans, he said: “I’m delighted with today’s victory and the title we won. The best thing any footballer can do is bring joy to the fans and help his country win things. It doesn’t get any better than that.”