Monday Jan 10, 2022. 10:00
Sierra Leone will chase an upset result in their opening Africa Cup of Nations Group E match when they face reigning champions Algeria at the Japoma Stadium in Douala on Tuesday 11 January 2022, kick-off at 15:00 CAT.
Sierra Leone are returning to the AFCON for the first time since back-to-back appearances in 1994 and 1996. Breaking a 26-year absence from the continental tournament was a major achievement for coach John Keister and his team, who will be hoping to shock the African football community with a win over the North African heavyweights.
However, the Manchester-born tactician has revealed that he received death threats in regards to his squad selection, as the Leone Stars headed to the AFCON under something of a cloud.
“I think it’s very, very sad that it has to come to this,” Keister explained. “Whatever walk of life you are in, nobody deserves that.”
Keister added: “I don’t think it should get to that point where my life is being threatened because people feel players should be in [the squad].”
Algeria claimed their second AFCON title at the last edition of the continental tournament, defeating Senegal 1-0 in the final in Egypt to add to their maiden Nations Cup triumph from 1990.
The Fennec Foxes have kept much of the same unit which claimed continental glory two and a half years ago, including coach Djamel Belmadi and star players such as Riyad Mahrez and Ismael Bennacer.
They are also on a remarkable unbeaten run which stretches back 34 official matches, including a crushing 3-0 win over Ghana in a warm-up clash last week – just three short of the world record set by Italy earlier this year.
Surpassing the Azzurri’s mark will not be a priority compared to securing safe passage into the last 16 of this tournament, but it would be no surprise if the North Africans achieved both – starting with a strong showing in this match.
In head-to-head stats, Algeria and Sierra Leone have met in five matches across all competitions since 1980. The Fennec Foxes have claimed two wins compared to one for the Leone Stars, while two games have been drawn.
The teams last met in an AFCON group stage match in Bloemfontein way back in 1996, with Algeria winning 2-0 thanks to a brace from Ali Macabih.