CAIRO: Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr admitted he expects a far tougher challenge against Algeria in Sunday’s Africa Cup of Nations semifinals than during qualifying for the 2018 World Cup.
The Super Eagles finished top of a section including 2017 African champions Cameroon and Algeria on the road to Russia last year, defeating the Desert Foxes 3-1 at home before a 1-1 draw in the return fixture.
Algeria were later awarded a 3-0 walkover for the second game in Constantine after Nigeria fielded an ineligible player, and Rohr has been impressed by their improvement since Djamel Belmadi took over last August.
“He’s done a very professional job. They were shaky at the time. We beat them 3-1 (in Uyo) and they made lots of individual errors and defensives mistakes that made it easier for us to win. They were also fragile in the draw,” Rohr said on Saturday.
“Now I see a solid Algeria side with a good balance between attack and defense. They’re still physical but they have come on since and it will be a much harder match than in World Cup qualifying.”
Nigeria eliminated holders Cameroon in the last 16 before knocking out South Africa, the conquerors of hosts Egypt, in the quarterfinals in their first Cup of Nations since lifting the title for a third time in 2013.
Rohr’s side have bounced back strongly following a shock 2-0 loss to Madagascar that cost them top spot in their group here, leaving the German confident they can overcome an Algeria team that has scored 10 goals in Egypt while conceding just once.
The one that we won was in 1990, a long time ago when it was at home. We’ve never won since. This is away from home, it’s more difficult of course.
Djamel Belmadi, Algeria coach
“As coach you’re always optimistic. We know they’re a good side but we have a strong team too. We can reasonably hope to win based on our last two performances but we’re wary because of our opponents,” said Rohr.
“We still have things to improve, for example if we have chances to score a second goal we need to be more clinical. They’ve been more impressive than us on the whole so far.”
Algeria’s hopes of winning their first Africa Cup of Nations for 29 years will be boosted by the arrival of another 600 fans on board military planes should they reach Friday’s final.
The Ministry of Defense said six military planes will be used to shuttle supporters of the Desert Foxes to Cairo for the final if they beat Nigeria in Sunday’s semifinal.