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Can the New Algeria Gaffer Qualify Foxes to the Nations Cup?

Djamel Belmadi’s appointment as Alegria’s soccer team coach is being greeted with adulations.

Djamel Belmadi’s appointment to the Desert Foxes’ managerial helm is being greeted with adulations.

The 42-year-old’s arrival is likened to a coup despite the exorbitant fees attached to the four-year deal he’d signed with the Algerian Football Federation.

The wave of optimism is apparent with even the staunchest of critics forced to halt their deride and for once embrace the ‘newest good’ walking towards Algerian football’s path with Djamel’s coming.

Born in France but an erstwhile player of the Desert Foxes in a flashy career that led to stops at Marseille, Manchester City and Southampton, the pragmatic figure also boasts of a prepossessing CV, justifying the plaudits being thrown his way.

Uniting an Algerian squad littered with big personalities and egos is an undertaking difficult to cope with as previous coaches of the side found out. An Algerian tabloid however this week claim Belmadi’s rise to the hot-seat has, with immediate effect, earned the full blessings of a once known to be divided dressing room.

The positivity surrounding the 42-year-old’s ascension directs to the coach’s latest success of securing Al-Duhail Sporting Club the Qatar Stars’ League gong. But can the former Manchester City star who’d never coached outside of Qatar qualify the Desert Foxes to next year’s Cameroon Africa Cup of Nations?

Finishing the qualifying campaign on a high and reaching the finals in Yaoundé headlines the coach’s priority list. Algerian fans have massive expectations, a thing cemented by notion that quality is the least of the current generation of Desert Foxes worries.

With virtually no room for a honeymoon following his new job and with a constantly expectant legion of fans, Belmadi will soon be confronted by the realities on the ground and perhaps realise that the Algerian coaching role is no tea party.

Gambia will be his first assignment and thus faces race against time to deliver with just less than three weeks on his hands to prepare for the clash, taking place in the rival’s territory – Banjul, Gambia’s capital.

The gaffer will be new to the stars and so is he to the players. This will be the erstwhile Al Duhail tactician’s primary challenge. He will be expected to quickly familiarize with his new players. There are no test games to enable such auditions, making the training ground the only venue available to Djamel to base his selection on.

Gambia’s Scorpions are also faced with a similar issue, leading to any attempts for an excuse in case of a shock defeat or draw in the opening game a tricky affair for the Algerian.

South Africa are the only ever side to run riot at the Bakau 30,000 capacity-seater Independence Stadium. That game ended with a star-studded Gambia losing 4-1. The history between the Scorpions and Desert Foxes is a telling case of what awaits the Algerians. If against all odds, the former Saints man pulls off a win, it will account for a brilliant flying start.

Pressure is already visible. The Desert Foxes have only won one match since turn of this year –a 4-1 romping of Tanzania – in the five matches they’ve played.

Sequence of losses to minnows Iran, Saudi Arabia, Cape Verde and heavyweights Portugal led to his predecessor’s dismissal and Belmadi knows he can’t afford that route.

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