Algerian Riyad Mahrez, the star of the Saudi Al-Ahly team, broke his silence to respond to the criticism directed at him, after the modest performance he showed during the team’s two matches in the group stage of the African Cup of Nations held in Ivory Coast.
Sports analysts and media demanded that the captain of the “Desert Warriors” team be referred to the bench, and that the way be made for other players to add to the team that is struggling in the tournament.
Mahrez attributed the level he showed during the Angola and Burkina Faso matches to the close supervision he was subjected to throughout.
Mahrez's imprint and creative touches were absent in the first match against Angola, which ended in a 1-1 draw, and he failed to make the difference that the fans were accustomed to.
In the second match against Burkina Faso, which also ended in a 2-2 draw, coach Djamel Belmadi was forced to replace him in the second half after repeatedly failing to provide support to the team.
📹 Summary of the match between Algeria and Burkina Faso (2-2) | A positive draw decides the match between Algeria and Burkina Faso 🇧🇫🇩🇿#Africa_Cup of Nations | #Algeria_BurkinaFaso#TotalEnergiesAFCON2023 pic.twitter.com/2sDJa9xBvc
— beIN SPORTS (@beINSPORTS) January 20, 2024
Mahrez said in statements to the Qatari beIN Sports channel, “We do not listen to those who sit behind their computers or their phones and are always waiting for us to win 3-0.”
He added, “We are working and focusing on the field, and no one is helping us. Of course, there is support from our fans and families and we are working to make them happy.”
Mahrez continued, “I try to move and do the best despite the close supervision imposed on me in matches.”
Regarding the Burkina Faso match, Mahrez commented, saying, “We performed well at the level. The opponent did not pose a great threat to us and did not offer much. He scored the first goal that came against the course of the game. I think we were cohesive and on the right path.”
Belmadi defended his player in the press conference after the match with Burkina Faso, saying, “I do not like the idea of criticizing Mahrez at all. He did not touch many balls, because we relied more on the left side through Youssef Blayli, and then Mohamed Lamine Amoura after he entered. Mahrez is a true leader who gave what he had to do.” In the two matches, there is no one playing because of his name here in the national team.”
🚨All the people who talk, who think we should win all our matches 3-0, who stay behind their phones and computers, frankly, we don't listen at all.
We are on the right path, and we are not listening to what is said… pic.twitter.com/Ne6g88Ly4x
– Ahmed Hafsi || HAFSI AHMED (@ahafsidz) January 20, 2024
Attention remains focused on the Mauritania match, as it will be very important for Mahrez to regain his skill and performance that helped Algeria win the title in 2019 in Egypt.
The Algerian national team occupies third place in the Group D standings with two points, behind Angola and Burkina Faso (4 points each), while Mauritania is in last place without points.
The “Desert Warriors” still have a chance to qualify for the next round, and hope is pinned on winning against Mauritania in the final round on January 23.