The warriors of Zimbabwe’s application of a four-four two fluid formation allowed them to impressively dominate play for lapses of time. Algeria lacked the fluidity in their four two three one transitions, with the defence’s main weakness being the leaving of lots of spaces between them, allowing Khama Billiart and Kuda Mahachi, two quick wingers, to cut in behind them.
Algerian midfield partnership of Adlène Guedioura and Yassine Brahimi appeared to focus more on pace than vision, and passing, neglecting the all-important one-twos and movement which would have disrupted the industry of Warriors midfielders Willard Katsande and Danny Phiri.
A few days ago, newly appointed Algerian coach, Georges Leekens, revealed what appears now to be ricocheting tactical approach to his AFCON campaign.
“The important thing is not to chase after the ball in the opposition’s half, but to make sure we don’t squander the chances that come our way and that we don’t give goals away. The only way we’re going to win at the highest level is by addressing those kinds of issues”, he told FIFA.com.
The evidence of this tactical plan was particularly viewed in this group B opener, with Algeria appearing to neither really sit back nor really dominating possession, appearing to invite the warriors into their half then banging on the counter, a game plan which appeared to reverberate spectacularly.
After Kuda Mahachi’s equaliser, Algeria’s grand scheme seemed even more difficult to compass, and the more they effected the initial game plan, the more they now needed to chase the ball. And Leekens appeared to make a U-turn after the match:
“We failed to press Zimbabwe when they had the ball . . .” he said.
20 minutes down, Zimbabwe could have been four up. The way Algeria carried themselves about; the mistakes the defence kept making – given the Khama Billiart industry, the Cuthbert Malajila 81st minute ‘miracle miss’ – 90 minutes later, the Warriors could have been a scorpion in the neck of the Desert Foxes.
But the Warriors did have sprints. Playing their pricking version of counter attacks, using Mahachi and Billiat, they managed to diffuse the Algerian airstream threats; particularly, African footballer of the year, Riyad Mahrez’s ferocious ‘Need for Speed’. The Leicester City forward’s ball supply was thwarted for lapses of time and this considerably kept the ‘Desert Foxes’ major plan at bay.
The Warriors’ blunderous 12th minute back pass which engineered a slitting Algeria counter attack, leading to that scotching Mahrez first goal stood tall for all the wrong reasons, chiefly for exposing and betraying the steadfast industry of centre back, Costa Nhamoinesu, against the consequent cut in shot that hit the inside of the bar from the right.
Algeria will have to work hard on refining defensive techniques against Tunisia. The type of defensive howler Matthew Rusike capitalised on in the 17th minute, slotting a pass to Kuda Mahachi, who slotted the ball into the bottom right corner, would have to be corrected if Algeria are to stand real chances of going through to the next stage of the competition.
Kuda Mahachi’s marauding runs kept full backs Faouzi Ghoulam and Mokhtar Belkhiter on toes as the former Highlanders winger switched positions with Mamelodi Sundowns winger Khama Billiart to neutralise Algeria’s counter attacks.
More Algeria defensive blunders, such as one that saw Warriors left back, Onisimo Bhasera, go down to Mokhtar Belkhiter’s challenge inside the penalty box cannot be erased, even by Riyad Mahrez’s scotchingly brilliant 82nd minute equalizer.
The penalty, on the other hand, was evidence of the physical dimension the match had silently taken, which had since resulted, unfortunately for the warriors, in the substitution of striker, Knowledge Musona, in the early minutes of the first half.