Plucky Algerians played with heartComment on this story
Salvador - Algeria's battling display against Germany in the last 16 of the World Cup on Monday will not only have won them many new admirers but also marks them out as one of the favourites for next year's African Nations Cup.
Africa's last team standing after Nigeria's defeat by France earlier in the day, Algeria gave Germany a mighty scare, taking them to extra time in Porto Alegre before finally losing 2-1.
The North Africans were full of fight, structurally sound, disciplined and showed outstanding fitness.
“We've acquired a lot of experience and this generation can achieve great things. Our objective is now to win the Nations Cup,” said captain Madjid Bougherra.
“If we play with this kind of heart, we can really succeed.”
While Cameroon and Ghana face enquiries into their strife-riven performances at the World Cup, where their campaigns were overshadowed by controversy over money and discipline, Algeria will leave Brazil with their heads held high.
The silky skills of Sofiane Feghouli and Yacine Brahimi were underpinned by the hard work shown throughout the team in all four of their games, and while self-belief has been an issue for teams in the past this side seems much more sure of itself.
Though much maligned by Algeria's media, coach Vahid Halilhodzic formed a team with strong purpose - bouncing back after several early setbacks in his tenure and enduring regular tussles with officialdom to stick with his vision.
His players complained about a harsh training regime in the weeks leading up to the tournament but they would no doubt have thanked him for pushing them so hard after galloping through their group games and being able to go toe-to-toe with the Germans in an energy-sapping encounter at the Beira Rio stadium.
Halilhodzic was in tears at the end, perhaps not only because the Brazilian adventure had come to an end but also ruing what might have been.
Algeria had already achieved their aim at the World Cup by getting through to the second round at the fourth attempt, but it was clear they were not happy to settle for the last 16.
The squad are set to receive a hero's welcome when they return home in the next days, while talks about Halilhodzic's future are also likely to be resolved.
All indications are that he is departing, with Frenchman Christian Gourcuff waiting in the wings to take his place, but with possible Nations Cup glory beckoning, the Franco-Bosnian might be tempted to stay on a little longer. - Reuters