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AFCON 2023 - Djamel Belmadi - Algeria: A do or die expedition?

Djamel Belmadi
AFCON 2023 - Djamel Belmadi - Algeria: A do or die expedition?


One, two, third AFCON for Belmadi! And it's to try and pick up the pieces between Djamel and Algeria. Indeed, for the coach born in France in 1976, this competition is all about winning back and rekindling the flame that has been lost with the Algerian public for some time now. Portrait of Djamel Belmadi, focusing on his tumultuous relationship with Algeria.

The Belmadi-Algeria pairing has recovered from the disappointment of the 2022 World Cup. In a relatively easy group, the Algerian coach came close to filling up on points (16/18 with 5 wins out of 6) for the AFCON 2023 qualifiers. Fulfilling his matrimonial duty of late, he avoided marital strife and gave himself a little respite.

In the World Cup qualifiers too, Belmadi recorded 2 wins from 2 matches, putting him top of Group G. Belmadi also secured a prestigious victory over his favorite victim Senegal in a friendly in Dakar (0-1), trounced Cape Verde (5-1), and recorded 2 draws against Tunisia and Egypt by the same scores (1-1). This has put a smile back on Algeria's face. This is encouraging for the forthcoming AFCON, and for the restoration of the past relationship between Belmadi, who has become grumpy and defensive, and part of Algeria, especially the provocative and critical press. Household quarrels therefore took up less of the "sport fennec" columns. With the quarrels finally put to rest, an apparent calm was observed after the turbulence of 2022.

But it has to be said that only the Fennecs' entry into the AFCON and their performance will allow us to gauge whether the relationship has been restored. They've had the best (AFCON 2019 victory). They have survived less happy days (2022). The thread of the relationship seems to be holding. Belmadi would certainly (re)win over the people with a victory on Ivorian soil. It would be the ideal gift! On the other hand, many are giving the former Marseille player short shrift, given his failed campaign.

The Belmadi-Algeria marriage hangs by a thread

In 2022, annus horribilis for Algerian soccer, Djamel Belmadi showed a less attractive side, in stark contrast to his enchanting beginnings. His marriage to the Fennecs has taken a turn for the worse. As head of the family, Belmadi seemed no longer in control.

In the aftermath of the festive 2019 nuptials, Algeria had the status of favorite for the AFCON 2021.As a result, expectations were running high at home. Algeria suffered a surprise elimination at the AFCON.The couple suffered their first setbacks. Then came the confirmation of the adage that a household has its ups and downs: non-qualification for the 2022 World Cup, in a Hitchcockian finale against Cameroon. Belmadi weeps with pain, the disillusionment and shockwave on the Algerian people is significant.

Criticism began to mount, and the conflicting relationship between Belmadi, at the time of his success a "soothsayer", "genius", "president", "minister of happiness" and the press went from laudatory to disparaging.

Yet before this crisis, which arose in the wake of the African Cup of Nations, he had completed a 35-game unbeaten run with his team. Logically uncritical at the time of the victory, the entente was the order of the day. The reversal of the situation from victory and cordial understanding to poor results and questioning revealed Belmadi's character: mood swings and irascibility; harsh criticism, questioning and unfiltered interrogation by the press, the people's mouthpiece.

There have been many episodes in this situation, and it would be tedious to list them all. In any case, at one point the Algerian Federation even had to come to his rescue in the face of attitudes judged to be "outrageous", aimed at him.

After the AFCON 2019 victory: a platonic love affair is born between Belmadi and Algeria
In a conference ahead of a friendly match during this dark period, Belmadi declared (November 14, 2022): "Criticism of me? I respond when I have to? I'm not fixated. I respond in my own way, with my own temperament, but that's perhaps 5% or less of my concerns. I'm thinking about our work with the national team." A spring was broken!

"The story of a love is the drama of its struggle against time" remarked Paul Geraldy. He couldn't have summed up the relationship between Belmadi and a section of Algerian public opinion any better. Who would have thought it, after the emotionally intense beginnings of this successful fusion? The marriage between Belmadi and Algeria was sealed in August 2018. This union gave birth to victory at the AFCON 2019, just 11 months later. Precisely on the evening of July 19, 2019. The christening was celebrated as it should have been, under the sign of national unity and ultra-popularly, in the diaspora and in Algeria!

The romance couldn't have got off to a better start. Algeria was still reeling from a number of disappointed marriages and, above all, 29 years of sterility in sport.

At the age of 43, Djamel Belmadi gave the entire nation immeasurable happiness with this second crown, who was a long time coming. And yet, the goal set for the technician, who only had experience in the Qatari championship and at the helm of the eponymous national team (2010-2018), was to reach the semi-finals. This surprise success for the new son-in-law made the party even better, and elevated Djamel to the status of superhero, national icon and most popular man in the country.

From Belmadi's rigorous approach to success to Belmadi's problematic bloodthirstiness

Belmadi was portrayed as rigorous, disciplined and straightforward. All essential things, it was concluded, at the time of success."He simply changed the state of mind. There were a lot of dressing room problems before he arrived. He pushed aside players who thought they were indispensable, and renewed the squad with players on whom nobody was betting," noted Mehdi Dahak, DZfoot's managing editor on France 24. This character was not a good thing in times of crisis. We'll see, not in less happy times.

In addition to his results, his bloodthirsty character has been the focus of much attention. A temperamental character, already detected during his playing career, which began at PSG in 1996 and ended at Valenciennes in 2009. As an illustration, he once threw away his Algerian shirt after being substituted during a heavy defeat by Egypt. Another episode at the Velodrome reinforced this impression.He responded to insults from the Marseille crowd by throwing his shoes. Ironically, Belmadi also witnessed the exit of a player who was unhappy with his substitution, namely Said Benrahma against Egypt. Benrahma failed to greet him as he left the field.Angered, the coach grabbed him by the collar to explain himself. A behaviour which caused a huge outcry. Finally, his regular spats with the press are no indication of the coach's character today. If anything, they've given him a new reputation for bad press.

Belmadi's career

The AFCON 2023 is the continuation of the Belamdi story, whose 1st sporting chapter began at PSG (1 match played) and culminated as a player at Marseille. Belmadi also played in Europe for Cannes, Martigues, Man City, Celta Vigo, Southampton and Valenciennes.A 13-year career! He has also had exotic experiences in Qatar. Where he played for Al-Ittihad and Al-Kharitiyath between 2003 and 2005. Belmadi racked up 296 career appearances for his club, scoring 47 goals.

Belmadi has also had a modest career with the Algerian national team.He won 20 caps for Les Fennecs, scoring 5 goals. He has only taken part in one continental tournament, the AFCON 2004. Algeria were eliminated in the quarter-finals by Morocco. A CV that explains his experience as a technician, who has worked with a variety of coaches, cultures and team-mates.

It was in 2009 that Belmadi, for the 1st time, had the confidence of a club to coach him. It was Lekhwiya in Qatar, where he stayed for 3 seasons. He then took charge of Qatar B, followed by Qatar A (2014-2015).Belmadi then took over the reins at Al-Duhail (3 seasons).Among other achievements, he won 4 Qatar championships... Belmadi was thus accompanied by success from the outset.

It was then that Algeria, going through a less prosperous period with the national team, decided to trust him to preside over the team's destiny, with the success he is known for.

AFCON 2023: Last mission?
In his new mission, he set the bar very high from the outset, passing his 2019 exam with honors (AFCON won), which made his failure in his 2nd competition (1st round elimination) unexpected. At least for this 3rd time, both he and the public will be confident that any scenario is possible.But what will happen in the end? Who will live to see Belmadi and Algeria after February 2024?

SNA tells you more!

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