The Fennecs of Algeria, despite being tagged as tournament favorites, have failed to live up to expectations in their opening fixtures against Palancras Negras of Angola, a match they drew 1-1.
Now, the former champions are desperately searching for their first win at this year's Africa Cup of Nations when they take on Burkina Faso at Stade de la Paix.
The Fennecs of Algeria cannot afford any result other than a maximum three points if they want to salvage anything from AFCON 2023.
A win by the Fennecs will see them dislodge the Group D leaders.
The Coach of the Fennecs, Djamel Belmadi, must still be disappointed with his side's inability to see out their first-half advantage against Angola before playing out a 1-1 draw in their opening game of the group.
Algeria's Baghdad Bounedjah had put the 2019 champions ahead and would have doubled the North African side's advantage with an impressive acrobatic effort but saw the strike ruled out for offside.
The Fennecs' high level dipped after halftime, allowing Angola back into the game long before conceding the 68th-minute leveller for the eventual draw, despite rallying late on to find another goal in the closing minutes.
Having exited at the group stage in the last Cup of Nations, Belmadi's men face a tricky encounter against a side that could pose more problems than the Angolans did in round 1.
Securing maximum points does not assure the North African side of a spot among the top two, even if it all but confirms participation in the round of 16 with four third-placed sides also progressing.
The Group D meeting between Fennecs of Algeria and Stallions of Burkina Faso will be the third encounter in the CAF Africa Cup of Nations, while each encounter has taken place in the group stage.
The head-to-head between both countries so far is perfectly balanced with one win and three goals each: 2-1 to Algeria in 1996, 2-1 to Burkina Faso in 1998.
Since winning the 2019 final against Senegal, Algeria haven’t won any of their last four matches at the CAF Africa Cup of Nations, having drawn two and lost two but having a longer winless run across the 2010 and 2013 editions in five games.
The fixture between Burkina Faso and Algeria will be the latter's 50th game at the Africa Cup of Nations, becoming the 13th nation to reach that total. Only three of the previous 12 have won their 50th game – Nigeria in 2000 (2-1 vs Senegal), Cameroon in 2002 (3-0 vs Togo), and Senegal in 2017 (2-0 vs Tunisia).
Algeria completed 442 passes in their 1-1 draw with Angola on Match Day 1 of this year’s Africa Cup of Nations, their joint-most in an AFCON game.
The Stallions of Burkina Faso are looking to win consecutive games at the Africa Cup of Nations for just a third time, also doing so in February 1998 and January 2017.
For the Fennecs of Algeria, they have been eliminated in the group stage in the last three instances, and they have failed to win their opening match at the Africa Cup of Nations (2013, 2017, 2022), drawing 1-1 with Angola on Match Day 1 this year.
Bertrand Traoré’s winning penalty for Burkina Faso against Mauritania on Match Day 1 means he’s scored in three different AFCON tournaments, only the third Burkina Faso player to do so, along with Alain Sibiri Traoré (2012, 2013, 2017) and Aristide Bancé (2013, 2015, 2017). It was also their first penalty scored in the competition since 1998 (Kassoum Ouédraogo vs Tunisia).
Bounedjah’s goal against Angola made him Algeria’s oldest-ever scorer at the Africa Cup of Nations (32 years, 52 days). Only two Algerian players have scored more than one goal at a single AFCON tournament aged 30+: Rabah Madjer in 1990 (two aged 31) and Abdelhafid Tasfaout in 2000 (two aged 30).
The Fennecs of Algeria must put an end to their poor run in four AFCON games without a win when they take on Burkina Faso.
Since winning the 2019 final against Senegal, the two-time Champions have drawn two and lost two of their subsequent four games, last enduring a longer winless run between the 2010 and 2013 editions (five games).
Despite being pre-match favorites in their opening group game against Angola, the Fennec Foxes were held to a 1-1 draw, with Baghdad Bounedjah’s opening goal canceled out by Mabululu’s second-half penalty.
With the game prediction, which seems more balanced, time will tell who will eventually make it to the knockout stage of AFCON 2023.