Algeria get a reality check

2010-01-11 19:06
Malawi's James Sangala, Russel Mwafulirwa and Hellings Mwakasungula block an Algerian corner kick. (AP)

Luanda - Algeria were handed a World Cup reality check when supposed minnows Malawi meted out a 3-0 thrashing to the Desert Foxes in the Africa Cup of Nations here on Monday.

Malawi were whipped 3-0 by Algeria on their only previous appearance in this competition 26 years ago.

But thanks to Russel Mwafulirwa, Ivis Kafoteka and Davie Banda, it was Algeria who were on the wrong side of a lopsided scoreline this time around.

After Sunday's 4-4 draw between Angola and Mali these three points put Malawi in a strong position to make it out of Group A and into the quarter-finals.

Algeria coach Rabah Saadane put the shock loss down to a cocktail of well organised rivals, the searing mid-afternoon heat, and errors on the part of his players.

"We hope the Confederation of African Football (organisers) can organise matches later because the weather was very hot and we didn't perform well.

"Our best players did not do their best - it was a difficult time to play.

"They weren't in their best shape, there was a lot of humidity. We hope to play later next time."

Turning to Malawi, he added: "They play simple and precise soccer. A 3-0 defeat did hurt our hearts but we must be humble and accept it and congratulate Malawi."

Opposite number Kinnah Phiri suggested the result, while unexpected, was not totally out of the blue.

"We came here as underdogs but we've been playing well, the signs were there. We drew 1-1 with Egypt, drew 0-0 with Ghana, and beat Mozambique in warm up games."

The game was held in a near ghostly silence, with all but a couple of hundred of the 11 November stadium's shiny new 50,000 seats vacant.

With few visiting fans the locals were either at work, it being Monday afternoon and all, or nursing severe hangovers after watching their heroes let slip a four goal lead against Mali the night before.

You could have heard a pin drop, or a ball kicked, and the atmosphere, for want of a better word, was in stark contrast to Algeria's last competitive fixture, in the cauldron of Khartoum, which sealed their World Cup ticket at the expense of bitter rivals Egypt.

Mwafulirwa put Malawi into a 17th minute lead when the Swedish second division striker pounced on a mistake by Algeria keeper Faouzi Chaouchi.

Rafik Saifi could have levelled shortly after but the Al-Khor midfielder's lob over Malawi stopper Swadick Sanudi went the wrong side of the crossbar.

On 35 minutes Malawi deservedly extended their advantage when Moses Chavula swept the ball into the box from the left with Kafoteka's' bullet header leaving Chaouchi bewildered.

Malawi went into the break sensing sweet revenge for 26 years ago and the second half was only in its infancy when Banda first hit the near post and then slammed the ball past Chaouchi on the rebound to turn the screw.

Algeria were having trouble breaking down Malawi's tight defence although Abdelmalik Ziaya and Saifi both had headers on target.

Malawi held on comfortably enough, avoiding an Angolan-style last quarter collapse, for their first win ever in the competition which swept them to the top of the table with the hosts awaiting on Thursday.


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