CAIRO: Algeria midfielder Adlene Guedioura says Friday’s Africa Cup of Nations final against Senegal represents the “match of a lifetime” as his country bids to capture the title for a second time.
The Desert Foxes lifted their lone trophy on home soil in 1990 but coach Djamel Belmadi has reinvigorated a team that crashed out in the group stage two years ago and then flopped in World Cup qualifying.
“I think it’s the match of a lifetime for a lot of players in the team and for Algeria,” said Guedioura, who at 33 is the oldest member of the squad.
The Nottingham Forest journeyman has started five of six games in Egypt and insisted much of the credit for Algeria’s eye-catching performances must go to former national team midfielder Belmadi.
“He really knows the players and what he wants. The good thing is he knows how to get through to the players and how to listen,” said the 48-time international.
“If you don’t have a good cook you can’t have a good recipe. With that we realize we can be all together and it’s important to be a team.
“It’s important for Algeria because we used to have good individuals and now we feel very strong as a team and we want to achieve as a team.”
A Youcef Belaili goal earned Algeria a 1-0 victory over Senegal in the group stage, but Belmadi was quick to point out the statistics were heavily weighted in their opponents’ favor.
“Of course we can lose this match. We have an opponent that is number one in the FIFA rankings for Africa. They were at the World Cup. We were eliminated in the first round in 2017,” said Belmadi.
“If you get to the final, the aim is obviously to win it. The game in the group stage wasn’t decisive but now it is and that’s the difference.”
He added: “The most important is to stay concentrated and determined yet calm at the same time.”
Algeria will have the backing of an additional 4,800 fans for the final.
Some of them will arrive in Cairo on military planes organized by Prime Minister Noureddine Bedoui.
The Cup of Nations showpiece marks the climax not only of Algeria’s campaign on the field, but of their fans’ recent political campaign in the stands.
In April, long-standing president Abdelaziz Bouteflika resigned after weekly Friday protests against his expected candidacy for elections, and football fans have been heavily involved in demonstrations.
“We know what’s happening. The people we represent have been wonderful,” said Guedioura
“It’s magnificent what is happening. We’re focused on football but we want to win the final for the people,” he added.