Hosts and winners of the 17th edition of the CAF Africa Cup of Nations in 1990, qualifying for the tournament 18 times throughout their eligible history – including the 1994 disqualification when they fielded an illegible player – Algeria boasts of experience reservoirs of magnanimous proportions. The 1994 disqualification reduces their AFCON participation to 17, making them the second most experienced team in group B after Tunisia.
In the winter of 1990 – when the tournament in its infancy only fielded eight teams – Les Fennecs lifted the Cup after an unbeaten streak which saw them concede just one goal throughout the whole campaign.
That year, their highlight year, Algeria beat Nigeria 5-1, and went on to beat Ivory Coast 3 – 0 before finishing on top of group A by beating their Northern Hemisphere rivals Egypt 2 – 0. They burst into the semi-final, beating Senegal – their current 2017 AFCON group B contenders – by one goal to nil. Senegal will now hope that history does not repeat itself.
Algeria later beat Nigeria 1 – 0 in that year’s AFCON final, their second loss to Algeria in one tournament, nevertheless marking an end to a 10 year Algerian football golden generation.
Since 1990, Algeria have only alternated between four quarter final exits, four group stage exists and one fourth place play-off exit.
From their reservoirs of confidence comes winning – the semantic role of their experience – and other group B contenders can expect Algeria to cause major upsets.
The 2004 hosts and winners of the 24th edition of the CAF Africa Cup of Nations, qualifying for the tournament 20 times less two throughout their eligible history, Tunisia is the most experienced AFCON team in group B with 18 entries.
In 2004, on their way to victory, like Algeria in 1990, Tunisia also beat current AFCON 2017 group B rivals Senegal 1 – 0 in the quarter finals, to set up a penalty shoot-out semi-final win over Nigeria, before beating Northern Hemisphere rivals Morroco 2- 1 in the final.
Tunisia, in resemblance to their northern hemisphere rivals Algeria, recorded an unbeaten run on the road to their first AFCON title.
Since their glorious AFCON victory in 2004, Tunisia have alternated between four quarter final exits and two group stage exits. Algeria, Senegal and Zimbabwe can expect Les Aigles de Carthage to be cause detriment.
Dubbed the Lions of Teranga, like their group B rivals Zimbabwe, Senegal has never won the grand continental accolade, and their best attempt at the honour was the silver medal at AFCON 2002 in Mali.
Overall, Senegal’s best attempt at the tournament has been one runner up medal and four quarter finals exits.
In 2002, Senegal drew 0 – 0 with Tunisia in an AFCON group D match, a result which, 15 years later, is likely to be indeterminate. Two years later, at AFCON 2004 in Tunisia, the two teams battled yet again in the quarter finals, with Senegal eventually losing 1 – 0. At AFCON 2008 in Ghana, in a group D match in which they drew 2 – 2 and now, at AFCON 2017, roughly 10 years later, the two teams resume their contentions at the prestigious joust.
In 2006, Senegal also beat another current AFCON 2017 group B contender, Zimbabwe 2 – 0, a key, decisive result the Warriors of Zimbabwe will always die to forget.
Whether the four group B teams can effectively draw parallels on results of their previous AFCON shenanigans remains to be witnessed.
That Senegal can cause an upset is evidenced by their track record. The results are a manifestation of latent tendencies which could be key in necessitating technical tactical projections.
Zimbabwe has spent a great many years on the peripheries of AFCON qualification. The team is only three qualifications strong, in terms of vital, needed experience.
At AFCON 2004 in Tunisia, they played their current group B rivals Algeria and won 2 – 1 in a group C tie, a result likely to remain a key psychological beacon in their quest for hope in Gabon. What the statistic means for the Warriors now is that a win against Algeria on Sunday remains a rhapsody of possibility.
The Warriors, however, have other past results to forget against some of their group B contenders.
At AFCON 2006 in Egypt, Senegal beat the Warriors 2 – 0 in a disenchanting group D performance which left Warriors fans red faced. A second AFCON qualification in two years would have theoretically meant that the team was finally geared for the continental scene, the emergence of which upset the traditional balance of power in the southern hemisphere. Echoes of Henri Kamara tainted a blissful evening for a nation increasingly grappling with pessimism.
Zimbabwe had been knocked out in the group stages of the tournament for the second time in two years.
What it meant then – and probably now – was that the momentary ecstasy had somewhat better be left to chance rather than might.
Whether these past shenanigans against Algeria and Senegal can propel the warriors of Zimbabwe to a recovery console, or rather, ironically, whether their current group B opponents can exploit statistic to their advantage remains a question subject to conspicuous enquiry.
Zimbabwe play Algeria in a group B opener in France Ville in Gabon on Sunday 15 January at 18:00. They will date Senegal on Thursday 19 January at 21:00, before finishing off group games by dating Tunisia on Monday 23 January at 21:00. All times GMT+2.