Group A: Mali vs Algeria

14 Jan

(Source- Guardian.co.uk- Momo Sissoko gets airbourne. Photograph: Joe Klamar/AFP/Getty Images)

With Phase 1 done and dusted, we’re back to Group A where Mali take on World Cup contenders Algeria. The Eagles, having clawed their way back against hosts Angola, would like to come out strong and correct mistakes that lead to conceding 4 goals. The Desert Foxes, would have to play to their strengths and make a start on reducing their goal defecit after losing 3 – 0 to Malawi in their opening fixture.

Mali came out the stronger team, creating the first chances of the game and pinning Algeria back in their half. Keita, lacking match fitness, was used as a first-half substitute in the first game but would play from the start today. Kanouté found himself on the bench, you had to wonder where the main threat would come from with the prolific striker left out. The Algerians seemed to pick up on this fact and focused a lot of attention on Keita, almost persistently fouling as he tried to find a way through.

The Dessert Foxes, made a very tentative start, still cautious from their last outing. Algeria managed to keep the Malians out, but looked limp up front, not committing many players forward when they did eventually counterattack.

Mali let the Algerians back into the game once they begun to spurn good chances. Yatabore was guilty of pulling a shot wide when he had players in support. Would he have done the same with Kanouté in the box? I rather think not.

The game looked to be more about good defence than about attacking prowess as both teams made knife-edged tackles to keep the opposing attack at bay. In particular, Halliche of Algeria stood out, making good tackles and winning most of the balls in the air.

Algeria finally made a breakthrough when Ghezzal was brave to touch the ball round a defender, drawing heavy contact from the defence. The resulting free kick found Halliche, who glanced the ball into the back of the net. The keeper rushed out then stopped when he could have comfortably collected. He found himself in no-man’s-land, with his next job to retreive the ball from the back of the net. 0 – 1

Mali had bossed the first half, but found themselves, again, with a mountain to climb in the second half. Algeria opened their account and could make it hard for Mali in the second half.

The second half started with Algeria coming out strong and they were the first to threaten. Yebda coming close with a piledriver from distance. Diakate dove, but had it been on target he was well beaten. The game became very start/stop, with both teams committing many fouls. Diarra was first to pick up a yellow and now misses Mali’s pivotal final group game.

Algeria did a good job of quashing the Mali threat, simply getting numbers behind the ball and forcing the error. Kanouté was brought on after an hour and immediately Mali heads were lifted. Why he was left on the bench is beyond me as he begun to ignite a fire in the Mali camp. He showed his class, coming short, playing good passes and running into space. But the defence was well organised and kept Kanouté and his support quiet. The former African Footballer of the Year could not escape the attentions of the defence and when he did, the service he needed was not forthcoming.

To make matters worse for Mali, Algeria begun seeing more of the ball and countered extremely well. Shame their only real efforts came from distance, perhaps with them hoping to test the keeper and look for a rebound. With time running out, Mali lost their patience and shape far too often. The calm and poise that saw them pull back a 4 goal deficit, was lost and the Eagles looked desperate to score. The Algerians stood tall and ground out a solid 1 – 0 victory.

Man of the Match: definetly Halliche who held the Algerian defence together and made great and important tackles. He also scored a good goal at the other end. Not a bad day’s work.

Talking Point: Mali needed to win that game to give them a good chance of qualifying from the group. With that in mind, why leave Kanouté out? N’Diaye, who he replaced, hardly got a touch, it was like the rest of the team didn’t trust him enough, or were like,

“Without Freddie in the team we won’t score, so let’s not bother going all the way forward.”

Why leave your best player out if he’s fit? Poor call by the manager I feel.

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