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African champions Algeria showed just why they are champions of Africa with a flawless performance to thrash 2012 champions Zambia 5-0 in their opening match for the qualification to the 2021 tournament in Cameroon.

Youcef Bellaili put on a man of the match performance as he played part in three of the five goals with Baghdad Bounedjah scoring twice while Ramy Bensebaini and substitute Hilal Soudani scoring one each.

Bellaili scored once and assisted twice before being substituted in the 80th minute for Soudani who continued with the good work.

Playing at home, Algeria were in distinct form and they got into the lead in the 42nd minute when Bensebaini headed home Bellaili’s corner from close range. The Algerians had won the corner after Zambian keeper Toaster Nsabata had pulled off a brilliant save to deny Riyad Mahrez.


Even before the goal, Les Fennecs had their chances with Bellaili hitting a shot wide after nine minutes while Bounedjah had a bouncing shot from inside the area go over.

The home side exploded in the second half and they got the second in the 67th minute when Bounedjah converted from the penalty spot after Bellaili was appended inside the area by Zambian skipper Kabaso Chongo.

Seven minutes later, the defending champions were 3-0 up and in brilliant fashion. Youcef Attal took on a drive from the right to the edge of the box and then teed up Bellaili on the right, the midfielder curling a belter into the top left corner.

Soudani then made it 4-0 in the 85th minute, just five minutes after coming on for Bellaili when he struck low inside the box after little interchange of passes with Bounedjah inside the box.

The lanky forward then made it 5-0 at the stroke of fulltime with a cheeky dink over the keeper after being picked out with a brilliant defense splitting pass from skipper Mahrez.


The win comfortably puts Algeria top of Group H with Zimbabwe and Botswana set to play on Friday.

Meanwhile in Kinshasa, hosts DR Congo played to a goalless draw against Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s Gabon.

Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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