Algerian legend Lakhdar Belloumi believes the Fennec Foxes’ progress at the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations will rest on their opening clash against Tunisia.
The two sides will meet at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium on January 22 before taking on their other Group D opponents, Ivory Coast and Togo.
“I think everything depends on the first match against Tunisia,” Belloumi told L’Expression. “We have made a lot of changes to our squad and we are optimistic about the future, but the game against Tunisia is one we cannot afford to lose.
While their friendly match against hosts South Africa ended in a 0-0 draw on Saturday night, Belloumi believes there were enough positives for Vahid Halilhodzic’s side to take to their next game.
“Our players produced a good performance,” he said. “It was a good advert for our football and this leaves everyone feeling optimistic.
“I was impressed by our defensive line and I think (Essaid) Belkalem has secured his berth in the team. I think coach Vahid has found his central defensive pair and there is nothing to worry about as far as the defence is concerned.
“In addition, we must not forget the very good performance of goalkeeper (Rais) M’Bolhi. He really gave assurance to the defenders and he is an important member of the team.”
Nonetheless, the former African Footballer of the Year admitted that there is room for improvement as far as their attacking play is concerned.
“I think (Islam) Slimani and (El Arbi) Soudani are not at their best because they have just returned from injury,” he said.
“Otherwise, we have to look at the offensive line before facing Tunisia and I think coach Vahid is well aware of this situation.
“I also think we should try to reverse the roles between (Hameur) Bouazza and (Sofiane) Feghouli. I see Feghouli on the left and Bouzza on right, but this is just my personal opinion.”
Belloumi played for Algeria from 1978 to 1989 and also coach the national team from 2004 to 2005.