Belmadi defends Mahrez after AFCON exit

Belmadi defends Mahrez after AFCON exit
Algerian captain Riyad Mahrez reacts during the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations Afcon Finals Ivory Coast v Algeria at Japoma Stadium in Douala, Cameroon on 20 January 2022. ©BackpagePix

by Staff Reporter

Friday Jan 21, 2022. 14:00

Algeria head coach Djamel Belmadi has slammed suggestions that Riyad Mahrez’s late arrival at camp affected his performances during their failed Africa Cup of Nations campaign.

The Fennec Foxes limped out of the tournament at the first hurdle as defending champions after finishing bottom of Group E with just one point.

Mahrez contributed no goals or assists in three matches as Belmadi’s side drew 0-0 with Sierra Leone before losing 1-0 to Equatorial Guinea and 3-1 to the Ivory Coast.

The Manchester City winger had only linked up with the national team in the New Year as Premier League clubs were granted permission to keep players going to AFCON 2021 until January 3 at the latest.

Following the North Africans’ exit on Thursday, Belmadi was asked in his post-match interview whether Mahrez was already on holiday given how little impact he made in Cameroon.

“Don’t go and point the finger at players who have given you so much happiness,” an angry Belmadi hit back.

“When things are not going well you start to point the finger at him or me. Did you want me to drop him to the bench? I didn’t change things. I left him in the team.

“When you talk about holidays you are at the very least ill-informed and at worst dishonest.”

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