Algeria coach Djamel Belmadi cut a disconsolate figure as he assessed a second successive group stage exit from the Africa Cup of Nations for the 2019 winners following the shock 1-0 loss to Mauritania in their final Group D clash on Tuesday.
Belmadi, who also failed to take the Algerians to the World Cup in Qatar following a dramatic playoff loss to Cameroon, was left to rue missed chances as he left the question about his future open.
“If we concede a lot of chances, I would say that’s where the problem comes from,” he said. “But I can’t explain why we can’t win. We have to be more clinical, we hit the post, we never managed to make a break, we never calmed down. If it’s the end of the cycle? Maybe.”
Belmadi says he expected much more from his players, especially after their group stage exit in Cameroon two years ago.
“No, I didn’t expect this to be like the last one. There is no way. Difficult, yes, but not with this sad ending. What’s next? I’m not going to tell you that. Keep trying, but I have people to talk to first.”
He also defended his record since taking the job in 2018, which included that Cup of Nations victory in 2019.
“When I came (to the team) we were 14th in Africa and 60th in Fifa (rankings). Now we are fourth in CAF and 30th in Fifa.”
On the flip side, there was jubilation for Mauritania, who not only won a first ever Cup of Nations match, but also qualified for the round of 16 as one of the best third-place finishers in the pool stage.
They had never even led a finals game in eight previous attempts before the victory over Algeria.
Senegalese-born goalkeeper Babacar Niasse, who made several outstanding saves, says it was a team effort after he claimed the Man of the Match award.
“I am very proud to have this trophy, I think this is collective for us, this for all of us even though I have the trophy, because we prepared for this together,” he said.
“I am extremely proud also, I will like to thank Mauritania for giving me this opportunity, I am very proud to represent my country. We knew this game was going to be difficult but we knew we could do something.”
Mauritania will face Cape Verde in the round of 16 on Monday. – Reuters