Algerians sympathetic but focused

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The Independent Football

Algeria emerged as serious contenders for the African Nations Cup in the build up to the tournament but need to re-focus after the shocking events that have overshadowed the opening matches in the tournament.

The ambush of the Togo team bus, which resulted in three deaths and multiple injuries, has been at the forefront of all players' minds as they prepare for their own games. For Algeria, there is particular resonance as their bus was attacked in Egypt prior to a crucial World Cup qualifier in November.

"Of course, this is a very serious and unfortunate situation. But all we are thinking about is our match [today] against Malawi," said the Rangers defender Madjid Bougherra (right). "We have had good preparation for the competition and, mentally, we are equipped to deal with this. Our aim is to go as far as possible in the African Nations Cup and bring joy to the Algerian people."

Recalling the attack in Egypt, Bougherra added: "We've been through so much. But we have kept on fighting and never given up. We can't let anything break our concentration as it's so important to get off to a good start."

All things being equal, Algeria should be more than capable of rolling over rank outsiders Malawi in Luanda. Bougherra's side come into the tournament in hot form, having secured their place at the World Cup with an impressive 1-0 win over defending African Nations Cup champions Egypt.

Algeria are former winners of this tournament, but need to set the record straight after missing the 2006 tournament entirely. They were champions in 1990, 10 years after losing in the final in 1980. In contrast, Malawi are playing in only their second Nations Cup, and their first since 1984.

Algeria will be without their first choice goalkeeper Lounes Gaouaoui who is suffering from appendicitis, the Algerian Football Federation said on Saturday.

Gaouaoui, one of the heroes of his country's surprise qualification for the 2010 World Cup finals, has been sent home for treatment. Algeria have been allowed to replace him on medical grounds because they have yet to play their opening match at the tournament in Angola, according to Nations Cup regulations. Algerian officials said 31-year-old Nassim Ousserir would be flown in as a replacement. Ousserir has played only once for Algeria in the past six years.