CAIRO (Reuters) – Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr remembers that when his side last faced Algeria two years ago, the North Africans were a “fragile” team prone to errors but says that all that has changed under the leadership of Djamel Belmadi.
The two sides, who clash in the Africa Cup of Nations semi-final on Sunday, met twice in the World Cup qualifiers in 2017 with Nigeria winning 3-1 at home and drawing 1-1 away on their way to topping the group and qualifying for Russia.
They later forfeited the second match, with Algeria being handed a 3-0 win, for fielding an ineligible player although it was academic as Nigeria had already qualified.
“They were fragile at the time,” said Rohr. “We beat them 3-1 and there were lots of individual mistakes, they made it easy for us.. .in the return match they were also fragile.”
However, he said that Belmadi had done a “very professional” job in less than one year in charge, leading Algeria to their first semi-final since 2010.
“Now they are solid, they have a good balance between attack and defence, they are still very physical and they have progressed a lot. It will be a very different match from those two years ago,” he said.
As he always does, Rohr, whose side beat South Africa 2-1 in the quarter-finals, said that their opponents were the favourites.
He also handed the tag to South Africa in the previous round on the grounds that they had knocked out the hosts in the round of 16.
“Everyone agreed that Egypt were favourites, so if then you beat the favourite, you become one of the favourites,” he said. “Now, we have beaten one of the favourites but we have to play against a team which everyone believes was the best one in the group stage, so we are still not favourites.”