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End of the road for Golden Generation after World Cup 2018 qualification failure


Photo: Football Federation

Algeria lost the match but won hearts when Germany knocked them out of the 2014 World Cup. The performance did not lead to better things. This piece charts Algeria’s decline since. 

When Algeria pushed Germany all the way to extra time, at the , many thought that the “golden generation” team would turn a leaf and live to its billing. Unfortunately, three years later, that defeat remains their greatest success.

On Saturday, 9th August, the Desert Foxes’ World Cup 2018 qualification hopes were ended in Lusaka. Brian Mwila looked to have put the tie beyond the foxes with a first half brace. Opportunity for a fight-back presented itself through a Brahimi strike and a Sakala red card. It was all for naught as Enock Mwepu assured his country a win with an 89th minute goal.

There is more to the 3-1 result than Zambia’s performance, reminiscent of the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations, or Algeria’s tactical and personnel shortcomings.

Over the last five years, or so, Algeria has been considered the best team in Africa. That they have arrived at each of the last four Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) tournaments as favorites may not convince you. Well, there is the fact that they have been the top ranked African side for the better part of their “golden generation” era.


The same FIFA World Rankings that give credence to assertions of Algeria’s superiority also tell the story of a team in decline. In the years 2014, 2015 and 2016 Algeria has ended the year ranked 18th, 28th and 38th respectively. Fittingly, the Fennecs are currently ranked 48th.

It may be ludicrous to suggest that Algeria has hit rock bottom for missing out on Africa’s few World Cup spots. 10 years ago they would have taken AFCON qualification. Therefore, it must be admitted that a tremendous job has been done within the country to develop football under the helm of . But being outside of the World top 50 countries is the hallmark of a poor football team. Even the expanded World Cup is only going to have 48 countries.

How things unraveled

Vahid Halilodzic moved on to newer challenges after guiding Algeria to the round of 16 at the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Algeria’s naturalization drive had gone up a gear during Halilo’s tenure. Luckily, he built a better team. The Desert foxes’ squad could be confused for a mid-tier European side. Of course, this is not because of the European roots of the players.

His successors delivered clean qualifications to two AFCONs. But the stain of crumbling against other strong African sides remained. In 2015, they were lucky to beat a better South African side and reach the quarter-finals. Algeria lost to another underwhelming “golden generation” team, Ivory Coast.

Neither performance nor result became better in 2017. Algeria was ousted in the group stage and could not even muster a win against Zimbabwe; one of the fodder teams that made them ranked number one. This has worsened to scoring only three goals in three matches.

What next?

Algeria could be in problems. This generation will be aging in 2019 and it remains unclear which players will pick the baton. The country has increasingly preferred Franco-Algerians to local league and Africa-based talent. As an example, Belfodil who was courted publicly in an embarrassing campaign is no closer to a starting position. Another striker, Bounedjah barely got an opportunity because of the names of his clubs.

The same is true for coaching. Forget that the “weakness of the Algerian defence” has not been addressed by one of Gourcuff, Rajevac, Leekens or Alcaraz. The mediocre Europeans, who supposedly help attract naturalized talent, have not shown value to be highest paid coaches in Africa.

I have dedicated part of my time in this bad world to following African football. From CECAFA to WAFU, COSAFA to UNAF & even the forgotten UNIFFAC.

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