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Algeria manager: Mahrez “deserves better than Leicester”

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Algeria national team manager Rabah Madjer is a decent politician, at least according to his comments regarding national superstar Riyad Mahrez and his club Leicester City.

[ MORE: De Bruyne exhausted ]

Mahrez, who turns 27 later this month, was left out of Leicester’s 1-1 draw with Swansea after his displeasure with Leicester’s refusal to sell him in the January window had him “missing” from the King Power Stadium set.

Madjer understands Mahrez’s frustration and knows he has to have his back, but also knows that Algeria striker Islam Slimani is also Leicester property and that clubs of his other players are watching his remarks.

So the boss was sure to credit Leicester while explaining his position on why the Foxes should allow Mahrez to go to a UEFA Champions League club.

Granted we wouldn’t suggest the phrasing “better than Leicester” when describing a club who won a Premier League title featuring your star, but no one’s perfect. From Goal.com:

“Mahrez currently deserves better than Leicester, but we must not forget that it was Leicester who put him on the right track.

“I think a serious conversation with his board is needed. He wants to go to a bigger club in the English league. I do not know what really happened about his transfer.”

The Sun also tosses a fairly funny tidbit out there that seems a bit too on the nose to be true, but bears relaying: Leicester teammates apparently have taken to calling Mahrez “Viktor Navorski,” after the character in Tom Hanks’ “The Terminal” who cannot get into the U.S. nor back to his home country.

Montreal to nab Algerian DP Taider from Bologna

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The loss of Swiss power Blerim Dzemaili is a big one for the Montreal Impact, but another World Cup player may be taking his place in Quebec.

[ MLS: Club-by-club SuperDraft needs ]

Tutto Bologna reports that Algerian playmaker Saphir Taider, 25, is set to sign with the Impact on a contract through 2020.

On loan to Montreal last season, Dzemaili went back to Bologna. Taider is coming back the other way and will reportedly be a Designated Player.

Taider isn’t as consistent a player as Dzemaili, but presents a skill set that should be a massive problem for MLS midfields.

He has 42 caps with five goals for Algeria, and was once property of Juventus. He spent parts of four seasons at Inter Milan, with loan stints back to Bologna, at Sassuolo, and a unremarkable time at Southampton.

With Mahrez missing, Algeria loses in World Cup qualifying

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Algeria may regret the decision to allow Riyad Mahrez to leave the team camp to sort out his club future.

[ MORE: UEFA qualifying wrap — Spain tops Italy; Woodburn scores in debut ]

Without its best player, Algeria lost 3-1 in Zambia in World Cup qualifying on Saturday to stay last in its group.

The defeat to a Zambia team that played most of the second half with 10 men leaves Algeria – Africa’s top-ranked team a few years ago – with little hope of making it to Russia next year.

The North Africans are one of three teams that represented Africa at the last World Cup which are highly unlikely to repeat in 2018. African champion Cameroon and Ghana are also way off the pace in their groups.

Ivory Coast is on track, a 3-0 win Saturday confirmed that, while Sadio Mane‘s Senegal is hanging in there.

A roundup of World Cup qualifying games in Africa on Saturday:

GROUP B

Mahrez was given permission by Algerian officials to travel back to Europe in the hope of securing a move away from Leicester in time for the transfer deadline. A transfer didn’t happen for Mahrez and, with the winger unable to get to Zambia in time, Saturday’s qualifier didn’t go to plan for Algeria.

Zambia striker Brian Mwila hit the woodwork in the opening minutes, headed in Zambia’s first in the sixth minute, and made it 2-0 in the 32nd. Yacine Brahimi’s long-range shot put Algeria back in the game early in the second half.

But even after Zambia’s Fashion Sakala was sent off for a second yellow card in the 56th, Algeria couldn’t score again despite a man advantage for over 30 minutes. Substitute Enock Mwepu netted Zambia’s third with two minutes left.

Algeria is eight points behind runaway group leader Nigeria with three games remaining in qualifying. Only the five group winners qualify for the World Cup.

GROUP C

Marc Wilmots led Ivory Coast to a 3-0 win in Gabon in his first competitive match in charge.

Wilmots was brought in as coach after Ivory Coast, the defending champion, crashed out of the African Cup of Nations in Gabon in the first round at the beginning of the year. The Ivorians eased some of those bad memories on their return to the country, with second-half goals from Max Gradel and two from Seydou Doumbia taking Ivory Coast back to the top of Group C ahead of Morocco.

GROUP D

Senegal and Burkina Faso defenses didn’t give an inch in their 0-0 draw, leaving little space for Mane to operate in.

There were few chances in Dakar. Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly was sent off for Senegal near the end after his second yellow card.

Burkina Faso still leads Group D and holds the qualifying place but just one point separates the top three teams.

Associated Press writer Andrew Jackson Oryada in Kampala, Uganda contributed to this report.

More AP World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/WorldCup

AFCON wrap: Tunisia joins Senegal in knockout rounds (video)

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Half of the field is set for the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations knockout rounds, as Group B completed his final day of group play on Monday in Gabon.

[ FIFA: World Cup draw date at Kremlin ]

Senegal will move onto play Cameroon on Saturday, while Tunisia will take on Burkina Faso.

Senegal 2-2 Algeria

Leicester City’s Islam Slimani scored twice, but it wasn’t enough to get Algeria into the knockout rounds of AFCON.

Papakouly Diop and Moussa Sow answered Slimani’s goals, and Senegal enforced its hold on the group it had already clinched after two matches.

Algeria needed a win and help, and looked to get it when Riyad Mahrez and Islam Slimani carried over their chemistry from the Foxes of England to the Fennecs of Algeria.

Zimbabwe 2-4 Tunisia

Sunderland’s Wahbi Khazri scored the last of Tunisia’s four first half goals as the Eagles of Carthage emphatically clinched their knockout round spot. Tunisia lost in the quarterfinals in 2015.

Lille’s Naïm Sliti was also among the goal scorers for Tunisia, with Youssef Msakni (Lekhwiya) and Taha Yassine Khenissi (Esperance de Tunis) also netting markers.

Tendai Ndoro (Orlando Pirates) and Knowledge Musona (Oostende) scored for Zimbabwe.

AFCON wrap: Senegal clinches first knockout round slot

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Senegal has advanced to the knockout rounds of the Africa Cup of Nations, leaving three teams to work for the second Group B slot come the final day.

[ MORE: Top Premier League story lines ]

Senegal 2-0 Zimbabwe

Sadio Mane (Liverpool) and Henri Saivet (Saint-Etienne) scored within the first 13 minutes as Senegal clinched Group B with a win over Zimbabwe. There were 48 shots between the two teams, 24 for Senegal, in a fairly open affair. As for the Warriors, they’ll need to beat Tunisia on Monday.

Algeria 1-2 Tunisia

Tunisia rebounded from a loss to Senegal without scoring from the run of play. Lille mid Naim Sliti scored a penalty after an Algeria own goal made it 1-0. Anderlecht midfielder Sofiane Hanni scored for Algeria.

Friday’s matches
Ivory Coast vs. DR Congo — 11 a.m. ET
Morocco vs. Togo — 11 a.m. ET