Mahrez-led Algeria impress, but must buck trend to retain title

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Riyad Mahrez-captained Algeria is favourites to win back-to-back titles when a twice-delayed Africa Cup of Nations finally kicks off in Cameroon on Sunday. Mahrez-led Algeria impress, but must buck trend to retain titleRiyad Mahrez-captained Algeria is favourites to win back-to-back titles when a twice-delayed Africa Cup of Nations finally kicks off in Cameroon on Sunday.

The Desert Foxes are unbeaten in 33 matches — a record for an African national team — with the amazing run beginning with a 4-1 away triumph over Togo in November 2018.

To succeed again, however, Algeria will have to buck a trend as the last five African champions failed to defend the title with none advancing further than the round of 16.

Here, AFP Sport puts the spotlight on the four Group E contenders. The group winners and runners-up are assured of last-16 places while the best four third-placed teams from the six groups also qualify.

AlgeriaCoach Djamel Belmadi has kept faith in the 2019 Cup of Nations-winning team with nine of those who started in the 1-0 final victory over Senegal heading to Cameroon.

While the 45-year-old France-born manager has been criticised for being too loyal to those who conquered Africa, a record of 24 victories and nine draws, and 83 goals scored, speaks for itself.

Algeria are particularly powerful on the wings, deploying not only Manchester City star Mahrez but also currently clubless Youcef Belaili.

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