Tanzania's 0-0 draw in Algeria on September 7 saw them qualify for their third Africa Cup of Nations finals, following on from 1980 and 2019. Adel Amrouche, the Algerian coach of the Taifa Stars, appointed at the start of the year, reflects on this unexpected performance.
Tanzania managed to take this point in Algeria, while Uganda dominated Niger (2-0). Do you consider this performance an achievement?
It's a great performance. I don't know if many people expected it. Tanzania's previous matches in Algeria had ended badly (0-7 in 2017 in qualifying for the World Cup in Russia, 1-4 in a friendly in 2022). But we held our nerve, playing the match we needed to against a very good Algerian team, who were playing in front of their home crowd in Annaba, which is reputed to be very hot. We're really pleased with this qualification, and we'll now wait for the draw in October. I hope we'll play at least one friendly in October, before the two World Cup qualifiers in November. Then we'll enter the AFCON preparation phase.
Milutin Sredojevic, Uganda's Serbian coach, expressed doubts after the Annaba draw...
Yes, I read that... It's really not serious. We played a solid match against an Algerian team that wanted to win. And then, honestly, how can you imagine for a moment that Djamel Belmadi, with whom I don't have the warmest of relations, could have given us the match?
Do you already have your AFCON preparation schedule?
Not yet, but I think we'll start with a training camp in Tanzania. I'm lucky enough to have 90% of my squad playing in the local league. Then we'll go to Côte d'Ivoire for a few days to acclimatize. Of course, we'll be playing some friendly matches.
"I want players who adhere to my project".
Qualifying was not really a priority when you were appointed at the start of the year...
The team had just one point after two games. When I signed my contract, the president of the federation told me that qualifying for the competition in Côte d'Ivoire was not a priority, that I was there to build a team for the future, as I had done in Burundi. But for me, reaching the final phase was an achievable goal. I know Africa well, I've coached in many countries, I won a CECAFA Cup with Kenya, titles with DC Motema Pembe in DR Congo (Adel Amrouche is also an UEFA Pro instructor, editor's note).
Were you one of the few who believed it was possible?
I just knew it could be done, so we started with a win in Uganda (1-0) in March. The Ugandans then came and beat us (1-0), but we beat Niger at home in June (1-0), and we knew that a draw in Algeria would qualify us. I worked tactically with the players, but also on the mental aspect. For me, the club you play for isn't the most important thing. I want players who adhere to the project, who have an irreproachable attitude. I have a player who plays in the 5th division in England, for example. I have a young squad, with a few older players to support them.
Is having a lot of local players an advantage?
The Tanzanian league is improving. The local clubs, Simba and Young Africans in particular, are making progress, they have good results in African cups and are used to matches with pressure and tension. I can watch the players regularly when I'm in Tanzania. There are indeed advantages, but it's also a good thing if internationals leave to play in Europe or in good African leagues.