Algeria coach: 'Mahrez should not be the focus of this tournament'
Algeria national team head coach Djamel Belmadi has revealed that his side's success at this year's Africa Cup of Nation will come if the focus is shifted from captain Riyad Mahrez.
Algeria beat Kenya 2-0 on Sunday, June 23 in Cairo in their opening game of the tournament and Mahrez scored the second goal for his side to give them the edge on the night.
“I do not like highlighting players. We need to put a little less focus on Mahrez if we want to make this a big tournament for us,” Belmadi said.
The 28-year-old is representing his country for the third time, his side that were quarterfinalists back in 2015 but suffered a huge defeat in the first round two years ago.
That made Sunday’s comfortable win over Kenya pleasing for Belmadi — who like Mahrez has a Manchester City connection, having played briefly at the club in 2003.
“It means a lot to win the first match in any competition,” Belmadi said. “We used to start poorly, it was always difficult for us to start well at the Africa Cup.
“In our history, most of the time, we often lost the first match, so this is also a message to the players that we can go far.”
The game against Kenya had been a test of their ability to overcome obstacles, he said.
“Everyone has had difficulties in this tournament,” added Belmadi. “We knew about this Kenya team, they were very well prepared. We knew their strengths and weaknesses. Without downplaying what Kenya did, I think we were good.”
Algeria share the Group C lead with Senegal, who they meet next in Cairo on Thursday.
“We expect a tough match against Senegal, the tournament favourite. It’s a challenge we have to take on,” the coach said.
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