Afcon Group D: Can Riyad Mahrez do it again for Algeria?

Algeria’s Riyad Mahrez will one of the superstar players at the Africa Cup of Nations. Picture: Jaime Machel Colega / BackpagePix

Algeria’s Riyad Mahrez will one of the superstar players at the Africa Cup of Nations. Picture: Jaime Machel Colega / BackpagePix

Published Jan 11, 2024


Algeria were disappointing as defending champions in the previous Africa Cup of Nations, and will be out to make amends and prove that they are still one of the top football nations on the continent.

And while form and recent rankings would suggest they should have no problem topping Group D, their Afcon history tells a different story.

The Desert Foxes have never had it easy against Angola or Burkina Faso.

Algeria have played against Burkina Faso twice at the Afcon, with each team winning one match. They also picked up a goalless draw against Angola at the 2010 tournament that the Palancas Negras hosted.

While they might appear a shoe-in for the knockouts on paper, Algeria know that they cannot afford to take anything for granted.

Angola will be keen to progress past the group phase and, hopefully, get to the quarter-finals – just like they did back in 2008 and 2010.

But they have to work hard to outdo a Burkinabe outfit that will be spearheaded by the Premier Leaguebased duo of Dango Ottara and the young Issa Kabore.

Mauritania are expected to prop up the standings.


Nickname: Desert Foxes

Rankings: Africa 4; World 30

Coach: Djamel Belmadi

Previous appearances: 19

Best finish: Champions 1990, 2019

Star player: Riyad Mahrez

Captain Mahrez might have left the much-fancied Premier League, but he can still drive an attack.

He will be the one the Desert Foxes rely on as they strive to reclaim the title they meekly surrendered two years ago. Now playing in the lucrative Saudi

Pro league for Al Ahli, the former Manchester City star remains one of the best attacking wingers on the continent, as evidenced by the numerous trophies he won with Pep Guardiola’s side.

Expect him to want to win the Afcon yet again by playing a leading role for Algeria, and thus prove that the move to Saudi Arabia does not diminish his talents or mean that he is in the twilight of his career.


Nickname: Black Antelopes

Rankings: Africa 28; World 117

Coach: Pedro Goncalves (Portugal)

Previous appearances: Eight

Best finish: Quarter-finals 2008, 2010

Star player: M’bala Nzola Angola have had a reputation for producing fantastic strikers and Nzola is expected to add his name to that list, which includes the likes of Manucho, Flavio and Akwa.

Born in France, he had the option to play for Les Bleus, but opted to don the red of the Plancas Negras rather. He has, however, not really lit up the field for Angola since making his debut back in 2021.

The Afcon provides him with an opportunity to show just how good a striker he is, after he previously attracted the attention of Serie A giants Inter Milan. He was influential in Burkina Faso’s qualifiers, scoring two goals, and they would want him to score more at the finals.


Nickname: The Stallions

Rankings: Africa 10; World 57

Coach: Hubert Velud (France)

Previous appearances: 12

Best finish: Runners-up 2013

Star player: Issa Kabore

After his break-out run at the previous tournament two year ago, where he was named as the tournament’s best young player, Kabore returns to the continental showpiece more mature and should be a key player for the Stallions.

That he is a Manchester City player tells the story of just how great his potential is. The youngsters is currently on loan at Luton Town, where he is enjoying regular game time. In Cameroon two years ago, the winger was impressive with his attacking and defensive contributions, which helped

Burkina Faso reach the last four, Kabore providing three assists in his country’s march to the semi-finals. He will no doubt be keen to also get in on the goals this time around.


Nickname: Chinguetti Lions

Rankings: Africa; World 105

Coach: Amir Abdou (France)

Previous appearances: Two

Best finish: First round

Star player: Aboubakar Kamara

Kamara scored two goals for the Lions in the qualifying phase and will once again lead the attack as they endeavour to progress past the first round. Kamara is vastly experienced and grew in renown during a fantastic time at Fulham in England.

Born in France, he began his club career at Monaco and later had a brief spell in Belgium. But he was most influential at Ligue 2 side Riems, whom he helped gain promotion by contributing 10 goals as the top scorer in the 2016/17 season.

At Fulham he was known as AK-47, after wearing jersey No 47. He has been around for a while, and currently plays in the Emirates for Al Jazira, whom he joined last year.


Monday: Burkina Faso v Mauritania, 4pm; Algeria v Angola, 10pm.

Saturday, January 20: Algeria v Burkina Faso, 4pm; Mauritania v Angola, 7pm.

Tuesday, January 23: Angola v Burkina Faso, 10pm; Mauritania v Algeria, 10pm.