الجزائر / Algérie / Algeria
- Capital: Algiers / الجزائر / Dzayer / Alger
- Official Languages: Arabic, Berber
- Other Languages: Algerian Arabic, French
- Nicknames: الخُضر / El Khadra (The Greens) الأفناك / The Fennecs (The Desert Foxes) / محاربي الصحراء (The Desert Warriors)
- Association: Fédération algérienne de football (FAF) / الإتحادية الجزائرية لكرة القدم
- FIFA Code: ALG
- Best World Cup Result (Men): Round of 16 (2014)
- Best World Cup Result (Women): Not Qualified
- Best Africa Cup of Nations Result (Men): WINNERS (1990, 2019)
- Best Africa Cup of Nations Result (Women): Group Stage (2004, 2006, 2010, 2014, 2018)
- Best African Nations Championship Result (Men): Fourth Place (2011)
- Highest FIFA Ranking (Men): 15th (October 2014)
- Highest FIFA Ranking (Women): 64th (June 2009)
- Lowest FIFA Ranking (Men): 103rd (June 2008)
- Lowest FIFA Ranking (Women): 125th (June 2013)
- Most Capped Player: Lakhdar Belloumi – 100 caps
- Top Scorer: Abdelhafid Tasfaout – 36 goals
Algeria, officially the People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria / الجمهورية الجزائرية الديمقراطية الشعبية, is a country in the Maghreb region of North Africa. It is the largest country by total area on the continent of Africa and further to that it is also the largest country in the Arab World. Algeria is bordered to the northeast by Tunisia, to the east by Libya, to the southeast by Niger, to the southwest by Mali, Mauritania and Western Sahara, to the west by Morocco and to the north by the Mediterranean Sea. The country has an amazing history and can be traced back to 202BCE when it was part of the Kingdom of Numidia. Following this the country then went through a long phase of being controlled by several dynasties – Zirid Dynasty (972), Hammadid Dynasty (1015), and Zayyanid Dynasty (1236). From 1516, Algeria was a part of the Regency of Algiers which all came to an end when it was conquered by the French in 1830. Algeria remained to be under the control of the French until after the culmination of the Algerian War of Independence in 1962 when the country obtained independence.
The sport of football was introduced to Algeria by European settlers in the 1800’s but it wouldn’t be until 1962 when Algeria had their very own national team, which came shortly after gaining independence from France. Before this time a representative team was formed in Tunis, Tunisia in 1956 and was named Armée de Libération Nationale or ALN. The ALN team played their first game on 1st June 1957 which resulted in a 2-1 victory against Tunisia. In April 1958 the ALN team was dissolved and was replaced by the FLN team which was made up mostly by professional players in France. These same players then joined the Algerian Independence movement of the National Liberation Front / جبهة التحرير الوطني (FLN) and began assisting in helping to organise games against national football teams. The FLN linked African football to anti-colonial resistance using the idea of ‘Pan-Africanism’ (a worldwide movement that aims to encourage and strengthen bonds of solidarity between all indigenous and diaspora ethnic groups of African descent) as a legitimising tool and a symbol of national identity. To counteract this the authorities in France swiftly obtained the non-recognition of the team by football’s world governing body FIFA. Despite the FLN team facing this prohibition on play it did not stop them from taking part in games and between 1958 to 1962 they engaged on a world tour of approximately 80 games! The team travelled across Europe, Middle East, Asia and Africa and recorded a total of 55 wins.
Following their independence, the Algerian national football team was officially recognised by FIFA in 1963. The team played their first game as an independent country on 6th January 1963 which result in a 2-1 win in Algiers against Bulgaria. Algeria qualified for the 1968 Africa Cup of Nations in Ethiopia but did not qualify for the next five tournaments. The 1980 edition of the tournament saw them reach the final only to be beaten 3-0 by the tournament hosts Nigeria. It is said by many that that tournament was the birth of the Algerian team as one of the best teams in Africa.
The years from 1980 to 1990 are considered to be the Golden Era for the Algerian team. They qualified for the 1982 World Cup held in Spain and caused an almighty shock when they beat West Germany by 2 goals to 1 in the opening match of the tournament. Two years later, Algeria finished in 3rd position in the 1984 African Cup of Nations in the Côte d’Ivoire and two years after that qualified for the 1986 World Cup in Mexico. Alas this was not to be a happy experience for the team as they drew one (Northern Ireland) and lost two games (Brazil and Spain) and finished bottom of Group D. Following this elimination Algeria would have to wait until 2010 for qualification for their next World Cup. Algeria hosted the 1990 African Cup of Nations for the first time and ended up winning the tournament for the first time too! The final of that years tournament saw them take on Nigeria in the final in front of an amazing 105,032 spectators at the Stade du 5 Juillet in Algiers. Algeria’s ecstatic supporters saw their heroes win the game by 1 goal to 0 courtesy of a goal scored by Chérif Oudjani.
If the period of 1980 to 1990 was one of immense success then the years between 1992 to 2008 are considered to be the total opposite. Algeria did not qualify for a World Cup within this period and did not fare well either in the African Cup of Nations. In fact their best finish in that that tournament in this period were quarter finals appearances in both the 1996 and 2000 African Cup of Nations.
In more recent years, Algeria qualified for the 2010 World Cup in Germany although were knocked out in the Group Stage. Four years later the team qualified for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and made history by reaching the knockout stages of a World Cup for the first time in their history. Two years ago Algeria won the 2019 African Cup of Nations held in Egypt by beating Senegal 1-0 in the final – the second time in their history they had won the African Cup of Nations. They are scheduled to take part in the upcoming 2021/22 AFCON to defend their continental trophy, and have been drawn in a tough group alongside Sierra Leone, Equatorial Guinea, and the Côte d’Ivoire. However, prior to the CAF tournament, they will be competing in the 2021 FIFA Arab Cup, where they will be considered one of the favourites for the title, but must first overcome Egypt, Lebanon, and Sudan at the group stage, if they’re to progress to the final of the tournament held in Qatar.
To find out more about a team who have consistently been one of the stronger international football teams on the continent of Africa, have won the AFCON on two occasions, and are the current African champions, we spoke to Algerian Football. They are excellently informative Twitter and YouTube account which talks about all things connected with Algerian football in the English language, and have been nominated as finalists on three occasions for The Football Content Awards (The FCAs) – including this year in 2021. You can find a link to their Twitter feed and YouTube channel below:
Q. Who would you say is Algeria’s best player and coach/manager of all-time, and the reasonings behind the choices?
I would say that the best player of all time is Riyad Mahrez [30-year-old winger/forward currently at Manchester City]. A fine player that has graced one of the biggest leagues in the world. Many people would have gone for Rabah Madjer [striker who scored 28 goals in 87 appearances for Algeria between 1978 and 1992], but lifting the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations has certainly cemented Mahrez as the greatest of all time and he was instrumental in that tournament. Djamel Belmadi is certainly a candidate for the greatest manager ever, winning AFCON 2019 and making Algeria 27 games unbeaten [from November 2018 to the time of writing in August 2021].
Q. Who could be regarded as a ‘cult hero’ in terms of the national team both in the past and present?
A cult hero would have to be Rabah Madjer from the past. He scored in a European Cup final with FC Porto to win them the trophy [in 1987], scoring a backheel [in the 79th minute as Porto defeated FC Bayern 2-1]. And presently, Islam Slimani [33-year-old striker currently with Olympique Lyonnais] would be regarded as a cult hero. His attitude, determination, and ridiculously good heading ability steer him right up there.
Q. Of the current team, who would you say is the best player in the Algerian national side currently?
The obvious answer is to go with Riyad Mahrez when you look at what he is doing at Manchester City, but AC Milan [23-year-old] midfielder Ismaël Bennacer is certainly one of the more crucial players in the team. He runs the midfield, and was rightfully named the AFCON 2019 Player of the Tournament.
Q. How would you describe the current state/performance of the national team?
The national team right now is at its best place ever. The squad are 27 games unbeaten, having gone undefeated against the likes of Nigeria, Senegal, Colombia, and Mexico. This run is an all-time African record and Algeria are aiming to break the international record of 35 games unbeaten [held by both Brazil (1993-96) and Spain (2007-09)].
- CAF’s Highlights of the 2019 AFCON Final: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jYSAoLG1G_8
Q. Are there any Algerian players who you think we should be focusing on for the future – who would you say is the most exciting up & coming talent from the country?
Ahmed Touba [23-year-old left-sided defender currently at Dutch club RKC Waalwijk] in central defence, who was most recently capped, looked very bright and promising in his first couple of caps, Algeria nabbed him from the Belgium U21 squad. Ramiz Zerrouki at FC Twente [23-year-old central midfielder] is also looking promising and was my man of the match in a recent friendly win away to Tunisia.
Q. Looking at Algeria’s international history, what would you say has been the best game, result or performance for the national team in your opinion?
The best ever result was beating West Germany at the 1982 World Cup. It was Algeria’s first ever World Cup and the media touted the game as a potential thrashing for West Germany, yet Algeria won the game 2-1 and to this day it is still one of the most talked about matches amongst Algerian fans.
Q. Likewise, is there a performance or result which is regarded as the team’s lowest point?
Algeria’s worst loss was a 9-2 defeat to Hungary in 1967. Although the Algerian national team was only in its early stages, conceding nine goals to any team at international level is rather embarrassing.
Q. What are the best (and worst) things about being a fan of the Algerian national team?
The best thing is the atmosphere created by the supporters. Algerians travel across the world to support their players at club levels and you often see Algerian flags in most European league games.
The worst thing is losing excellent players to France, missing out on the likes of Zinedine Zidane and Karim Benzema.
Q. Have the fans adopted some kind of unofficial anthem to sing along to before/during/after matches?
There are several Algerian football songs recorded in both French and Arabic but the most recent tune has been a song called ‘Mama Africa‘ where the main lyrics say “On Est La” which translates to “We Are Here“.
Q. Do you have a favourite or iconic shirt from the whole time of the national team?
The best shirt was the one worn at the 1982 World Cup. It has Arabic writing on the front and is synonymous with Algeria beating West Germany, and was worn by legends such as Rabah Madjer and Lakhdar Belloumi. It is green and white and many fans wear it as a retro kit today.
Q. Finally, what are your hopes for the future of the Algerian national team?
There are high hopes for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, and a tournament in the Middle East will almost be like a home tournament for Algeria. The fans will fill up the stadiums and there is quiet optimism that Algeria can go very far in the tournament.
A massive شكرا جزيلا to Algerian Football for answering our questions on The Fennecs. Remember you can find their excellent Twitter account and YouTube channel in the links at the top of the blogpage.
If you have any comments, suggestions, reactions, or even your own answers to the above questions, please write them in the comments box below. Likewise, you can either email us at email@example.com or send a message to the author @Gareth19801 or the editor at @The94thMin on Twitter.