Algeria almost boycotted Arab Cup

Algeria almost boycotted Arab Cup
Players of Algeria celebrate winning the FIFA Arab Cup final match between Tunisia and Algeria at the Al-Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, Qatar, 18 December 2021. EPA/Noushad Thekkayil

by Graeme Jackson

Sunday Jan 02, 2022. 10:00

Algeria team manager Amine Labdi has revealed that the reigning African champions almost boycotted the recent 2021 FIFA Arab Cup.

The Fennec Foxes ended up winning the tournament held in Qatar from late November to mid December, defeating Tunisia 2-0 after extra time in the final.

However, Algeria almost opted out of the competition at the last minute in fear that an ‘A’ team would lose their long unbeaten run (which currently officially stands at 33 games for the ‘senior’ team, led by coach Djamel Belmadi) and the possibility that their FIFA ranking could be affected, thereby possibly seeing them drop into the unseeded category for the upcoming draw for the final round of 2022 World Cup qualifiers.

“On the eve of the first match against Sudan, we had threatened to boycott the tournament if our unbeaten series was put at stake,” Labdi said, as quoted by DZ Foot.

“We were also worried about falling back in the FIFA rankings to end up in hat two [unseeded side of the draw]. That would have forced us to play the second leg of the World Cup playoffs away and face better teams.”

The unbeaten run offers up a point of controversy, with the Arab Cup games perhaps regarded as contributing to the series – otherwise Algeria would currently be 39 games unbeaten, thereby surpassing Italy’s recent world record of 37 games.

“At our insistence, FIFA finally explained to us that the matches will count as friendly matches but with a bonus and a penalty that will not have too great an impact. After the final, FIFA has informed us that it is adding the six matches to the unbeaten series,” said Labdi, though the status of the undefeated streak remains unconfirmed.

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