BENGUELA, Angola (AFP) - Captain Yazid Mansouri says shock Africa Cup of Nations semi-finalists Algeria are indebted to first-match tormentors Malawi.
"We lacked humility and paid the price," said the 31-year-old midfielder from French Ligue 1 club Lorient as he recalled a 3-0 drubbing by the tournament minnows in Luanda two weeks ago.
"Algeria forgot that qualifying for the 2010 World Cup meant nothing to our rivals. To justify our status as one of the best teams on the continent we had to deliver quality football during each match.
"Our team was challenged from the start of the Nations Cup and Malawi succeeded perfectly, delivering an uppercut that could have left us on the ground forever," admitted the 'Desert Foxes' captain.
"Luckily we reacted with pride and self esteem against the Malians. Once in a while a child needs a good knock to understand," he added ahead of their semi-final showdown with title holders Egypt here Thursday night.
Algeria squeezed past Mali 1-0 via a Rafik Halliche header off a free kick and then fought a goalless, soulless stalemate with hosts Angola to finish Group A runners-up.
The Angola result triggered a media storm with a Malian journalist hinting at a 'fixed' result to suit both teams which veteran Algeria coach Rabah Saadane angrily denied.
Mali finished level on four points with Algeria and scored six goals more in the three-round mini-league phase than the North Africans only to lose out on the head-to-head rule.
Given no chance outside their homeland of toppling title favourites Ivory Coast in the quarter-finals, Algeria triumphed 3-2 after extra time in a Cabinda epic.
Falling behind for the second time in the 89th minute all seemed lost for the 1990 champions, but outstanding central defender Madjid Bougherra stole unmarked into the six-yard area to head a stoppage-time equaliser.
And two minutes into extra time substitute Hameur Bouazza from English second-tier club Blackpool exposed Ivorian defensive frailties again as he punished non-existent marking to head the winner.
Mansouri refused to be drawn into a 'war of words' ahead of the clash with Egypt, who they defeated 1-0 in a Khartoum play-off last November to snatch the last African place at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
Dozens of rival supporters were reportedly injured in clashes before and after a game in the Sudanese capital settled by a superb late first-half goal from defender Antar Yahia.
Egypt alleged food poisoning after they lost 3-1 in Blida and the return qualifier in Cairo was marred by rocks being hurled into the Algerian bus and injuring several players as it headed from the airport to a hotel.
"The Algerian and Egyptian teams know each other very well so it is going to be a very competitive match and a single goal could settle the outcome," said Mansouri.
|16||F. Chaouchi||40' 87'|
|5||R. Halliche||30' 38'|
|Coach: R. Saâdane|
for M. Meghni 67'
for K. Matmour 75'
for A. Ghezzal 89'
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