Desert Flame Extinguished: Belmadi Blamed as Algeria Crash Out of AFCON 2023

The Fennecs of Algeria are back in the wilderness after a disastrous performance at AFCON 2023 in Ivory Coast. Head coach Djamel Belmadi, once hailed as a national hero, has been officially sacked following the team’s humiliating first-round exit.

Belmadi’s dismissal was announced on Wednesday, January 24th, by Algerian Football Federation president Walid Sadi on the X platform. The decision came on the heels of Algeria’s shock 1-0 defeat to Mauritania, a result that condemned them to last place in Group D with just two points.

“I met the national coach to discuss the consequences of this bitter exclusion, and we reached an amicable agreement to terminate the contract which binds him to the Algerian Football Federation,” Sadi declared in a heartfelt Tweet. “We thank Djamel Belmadi for everything he has done for the team and we wish him good luck for the rest of his career.”

However, Sadi’s conciliatory tone couldn’t mask the frustration and anger felt by Algerian fans. This elimination marked the third consecutive major tournament where the Fennecs had faltered, crashing out after hosting the 2021 World Cup qualifiers and bowing out in the first round of AFCON 2022.

The pressure became too much to bear, and fans in Bouake, Ivory Coast, where the team was based, vented their fury by attacking the Algerian team’s hotel on Tuesday evening. Their message was clear: Belmadi had to go.

Sadi acknowledged the fans’ pain and promised a seismic shift in Algerian football. “We promise the supporters and lovers of the National Team that what happened is the beginning of a radical change, even a real revolution at the level of the Algerian National Team,” he wrote. “Our goal is to create an environment of ideal work and to bounce back after this failure to regain our place on the continental and international scene.”

Sadi also offered “sincere apologies to the supporters of the National Team and the Algerian people,” vowing to “correct the errors of the past with one goal: to put the train back on the rails.”

Belmadi’s departure marks the end of an era for Algerian football. He led the team to AFCON glory in 2019, but the recent string of failures proved impossible to overcome.

Now, the FAF faces the daunting task of picking up the pieces and rebuilding the Fennecs into a force to be reckoned with once again. The search for a new coach begins, and the pressure to find the right man to reignite the desert flame will be immense.

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