Algeria v Zimbabwe: Leekens wary of opening slip-up

Algeria boss Georges Leekens is wary of underestimating Zimbabwe in its Africa Cup of Nations Group B opener in Franceville on Sunday.

GeorgesLeekens - cropped

Algeria coach Georges Leekens talks to the media.

Algeria boss Georges Leekens is wary of underestimating Zimbabwe in its Africa Cup of Nations Group B opener in Franceville on Sunday.

Leekens has arguably one of the strongest squads in the competition at his disposal but, with Tunisia and Senegal also in the pool, he knows the importance of getting off to a strong start.

The Belgian has reason for caution, with Zimbabwe winning the previous AFCON encounter between the two sides 2-1 in a 2004 group-stage clash and having drawn with Ivory Coast and Cameroon in pre-tournament friendlies.

"Zimbabwe are a respectable team with great potential," Leekens said at a pre-match media conference on Saturday.

"They showed good things in their friendly against Cameroon, which is an additional reason to be careful.

"I am waiting for the last moment to pick my starting 11 – no one has a place in advance."

Leekens led Tunisia to the quarter-finals of the tournament in 2015 and will be hoping to get improved performances out of Algeria, who disappointed en route to the same stage that year.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Algeria – Riyad Mahrez

Algeria possess an impressive attacking line-up but it will be hoping for the best out of 2016 African Player of the Year Riyad Mahrez.

If the winger can link up effectively with Leicester City team-mate Islam Slimani, Algeria could be a real force to be reckoned with.

 

Zimbabwe – Knowledge Musona

The goals of former Hoffenheim striker Knowledge Musona will be important for Callisto Pasuwa's Warriors in just its third AFCON campaign.

Musona now plies his trade with Oostende and has scored eight goals in the Belgian top flight this season.

 

KEY OPTA STATS

- This will be Algeria's 17th participation in the Africa Cup of Nations - its solitary title dates back to 1990 on home soil. It has not reached the final since.
- Zimbabwe failed to reach the knockout stages in its previous two AFCON appearances, finishing bottom of its group on both occasions and winning only two of its combined six games (L4).
- Algeria has lost six of its last nine AFCON games (W2 D1).
- It has also won only one of its last nine opening matches at the AFCON (D3 L5), against South Africa in 2015.

  Dugout videos