AFCON: Algeria players report to camp despite no official squad announcement

Pending the announcement of a final squad for the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), some players of the Algeria national team have begun reporting to camp.

Fennecs coach Djamel Belmadi submitted a 50-man provisional squad to CAF. The list is set to be cut down to a final of 27 before the tournament kicks off on January 13.

Belmadi and the Algerian Football Federation (FAF) are expected to announce the final squad for the AFCON at a press conference on Sunday, December 31, 2023.

Despite that, some players have started arriving at the National Technical Center of Sidi Moussa for camping, a development that has sparked controversy within the local media.

Eight players in camp so far

While the Algerian press continues to scour around for the final squad list for the AFCON, more players are arriving at the Houari Boumediene International Airport in Algiers.

As of Thursday morning, DZfoot reported that eight players had reported to the National Technical Center of Sidi Moussa to begin camping, despite the FA holding the final squad list to its chest.

Youcef Atal, Youcef Belaïli and Islam Slimani were the first to arrive in camp. Villarreal’s Aïssa Mandi, Lille’s Nabil Bentaleb, Caen’s Anthony Mandrea and Metz right-back Kévin Guitoun also joined on Tuesday. Adam Ounas, who’s also on the books of Ligue 1 side Lille, reported to camp on Wednesday.

‘Media reduced to Inspectors'

Meanwhile, Algeria captain Riyad Mahrez is expected to arrive on Saturday, with his club Al-Ahli having a game against Al-Khaleej in the Saudi Pro League on Friday.

Players who ply their trades in England will also arrive late, with a number of them having commitments throughout the festive period. These include Wolverhampton Wanderers’ Rayan Aït-Nouri and Sheffield United’s Yasser Larouci.

The local media, though, continues to be very critical of how the country’s AFCON squad has been handled. A publication by the DZfoot site said the media has been reduced to playing the role of an “inspector” in a bid to unearth which players will be in the Ivory Coast for the tournament.

“We never know in advance when the list of summoned players will be published. So the media find themselves playing Inspector Tahar at the airport to see who is in Sidi Moussa and who is not,” the Algerian publication fumed in an editorial.

“In most countries, this is a major communication moment for the federation, its sponsors and its partners. This is not the case for us and for our group at the CAN, we are the last to wait for the publication of a list of which we can already sketch half of the names thanks to the photos at the airport or at Sidi Moussa.”

Algeria, who last won the tournament in 2019, are paired in AFCON Group D alongside Burkina Faso, Angola, and Mauritania for next year’s tournament. 

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Emmanuel Ayamga

Emmanuel Ayamga is an African sports writer, with bylines on DW, Al Jazeera, World Soccer Magazine and These Football Times.