Algeria were held 1-1 by Senegal this weekend in a disappointing World Cup African Zone Group C debut for a country that has reached the finals twice.
Memories of the shock 1982 triumph over West Germany could only have added to the disappointment of fans in the eastern city of Annaba as the lackluster Desert Warriors had to come from behind to secure just one point.
Silido Diop struck after 16 minutes for Senegal, who led an early surprise at the 2000 African Nations Cup by reaching the quarterfinals, and Rafik Saifi leveled midway through the first half.
Algeria, whose Nations Cup campaign also ended at the quarterfinals stage, were desperate for a winning start in a pool that includes North African giants Egypt and Morocco and Namibia.
Coach Abdelghani Djadaoui, who replaced Nacer Sandjak after Algeria ousted Cape Verde unconvincingly in a preliminary tie, has warned Algerian football authorities that he faces a difficult World Cup mission.
But he must have expected a better result at home to the Senegalese in what will probably be the second easiest fixture of an eight-match qualifying program stretching to July next year.
Djadaoui boasted on the eve of the first of 100 matches designed to produce five African finalists for the 2002 tournament in Japan and South Korea that Algeria were psychologically and tactically well prepared for Senegal.
But there is a ray of hope for the Algerians as experienced Paris Saint German midfielder Ali Benarbia is likely to be available for the daunting clash with Morocco in Casablanca next month.
French-born Benarbia, eighth in the 1999 African Footballer of the Year poll, qualifies because his parents are Algerian and finally gave in last month to persistent pleas for him to become a Desert Warrior.
Namibia host Morocco at the Independence Stadium in Windhoek later Saturday in another Group C match while 1990 finalists Egypt make their debut on July 9 in Dakar against Senegal – (AFP)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com )