It always gets easier when you know the next move your opponent is going to make, it makes work calmer when what you anticipated eventually happens.
It was the same script for Algeria as they defeated Nigeria 2-1 in the second semi-final at the 2019 Total Africa Cup of Nations to reach the final for the first time in 29 years.
Algerian coach Djamel Belmadi declined to reveal his game approach to journalists at the pre-match press conference on Saturday but eventually let the cut out of the basket after the game.
“We knew the strength of Nigeria was the pace of Musa (Ahmed) and Chikwueze (Samuel), Belmadi said before adding.
“We knew if we close the space in the wings it was going to be had for them and our midfielders were tasked to also put pressure on their players operating in the middle.”
“With the wings dead and the midfield not functioning, we knew their defence would struggle and they did. We would have scored more goals but it didn’t happen,” he added.
Algeria got the lead they were working for all evening five minutes to the break after William Troost-Ekong deflected Riyad Mahrez’s cross into his own net before Odion Ighalo levelled matter from 12 yards in the 72nd minutes.
When the game looked like it was destined for extra time, Mahrez produced a moment of genius with a freekick that beat the Nigerian wall and the goalkeeper
“We knew it would be a tough game, we struggled midway the second half because of fatigue and the quality of the opposition.”
“Our players showed a lot of mental strength to comeback from conceding a goal and winning the game,” Belmadi added.
In their third Nations Cup final, Algeria will play Senegal who will be in their second but looking at winning their first Nations Cup the trophy.