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South Africa’s semifinal opponents at the Africa Under-23 Cup of Nations, Algeria, will provide a stern test of the team’s attacking prowess having topped their Group B on the back of some stout defensive displays.

The Algerians conceded just a single goal in their three pool matches and look the most organised of the eight teams at the finals in Senegal.

South Africa will play them for a place in the final - and the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro next year - on Wednesday evening in Dakar.

Algeria are coached by Swiss national Pierre-André Schürmann, who helped his native country to victory in the 2002 European Under-17 Championships and is an experienced junior coach.

Schürmann is relieved to be facing South Africa rather than hosts Senegal in the semifinals, confident his side can get the better of Owen da Gama’s charges.

“I'm glad we ended the top of the group and qualified for the semifinals,” he said. “Our approach is to take it match by match.

“Now we will prepare for the match against South Africa because it was important to avoid the host country (Senegal) in the semifinals.”

Algeria drew 0-0 with Nigeria in their final pool game, a match in which both sides had their chances.

“I'm satisfied with our performance overall and against a tough opponent like Nigeria,” Schürmann said.

In all they collected five points from their pool play, which was enough for top spot in the group.

Algeria started with a 1-1 draw against Egypt, a game in which they fell behind in the second half before teenage USM Alger midfielder Oussama Chita equalised.

That was followed by a 2-0 win over Mali, the first goal scored by midfielder Zinedine Ferhat along with an own goal from Malien defender Youssouf Traoré.

Algeria are seeking a return to the Olympics for the first time since the 1980 Games in Moscow where they reached the quarterfinals before a 3-0 loss to Yugoslavia.

That team contained Lakhdar Belloumi and Rabah Madjer, widely regarded as two of the greatest Algerian and African players of all time.

That is their only Olympics appearance to date, but they will feel this year’s Cup of Nations in Senegal provides them with their best chance of success in many years.

Unlike their senior national side that is made up of a majority of players born and playing in France, every one of their 21-man squad in Senegal plies their trade in their domestic league.

The side is captained by centre-back Ryad Kenniche, who plays for top domestic team ES Sétif.

© Mzansi Football

Tag(s) : #Sport

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