New Algeria coach Georges Leekens has admitted that he is in awe of Nigeria’s forward line ahead of the 12 November World Cup qualifier in Uyo.
Belgian Leekens, who returned to the Algeria post last week following the exit of Miloslav Rajevac, is however confident he will lead the Fennecs to Russia 2018 by topping the qualifying group that also has Cameroon and Zambia.
“Have you seen Nigeria’s attack? Sometimes they can be world class,” Leekens said at his first press conference in Algiers on Tuesday.
The former Belgium, Tunisia and Anderlecht coach was referring to the Super Eagles attack that includes Manchester City’s Kelechi Iheanacho, Leicester’s Ahmed Musa, Watford's Odion Ighalo, Arsenal’s Alex Iwobi and Olympiacos’ Brown Ideye, most of whom are in excellent form going into the key clash.
However, Leekens has a formidable forward line of his own, having named Leicester pair Riyad Mahrez and Islam Slimani in a squad of 18 for the match.
“I’m releasing a list of 18 players who play abroad. Then we’ll complete it,” he explained.
“I don’t want to hear local players, overseas-based players. There are only Algerian players.”
Leekens, 67, promised that his “emotional” return after 12 years will deliver a Russia 2018 ticket for Russia.
“It’s very emotional to be at head of the national team for the second time,” he said.
“My wife jumped with joy when she found out we were coming to Algeria.
“I have nothing left to prove in Belgium. But I have something to prove to you Algerians. I never had problems here.
“If I don’t know Algeria, the players, people, culture… I don’t do this in ten days.”
“The last time I was here we qualified for 2004 AFCON. I had to leave for personal reasons.
“You played a friendly against Tunisia a few years ago. Supporters chanted my name and it touched me.
“We’re going to re-find the pride you had when you played against Germany (at Brazil 2014).
“I am ambitious. I could have gone to Qatar for money.
“We have a good team. Motivated players, motivated staff, and we’ll do everything to be efficient.
“Let’s go to Russia together. I’m not a magician, but I’ll give it all.”
Leekens is confident his team will give Nigeria a tough time with quick movement and direct play, the “Algerian way”.
“I’ll ask my players to play the Algerian way,” he added. “They will play that way. (Not just with technique, but with heart).
“I don’t like dribbling for dribbling’s sake. I like vertical play.
“Everyone has to defend. Everyone must run 10m. That’s not a lot. Playing without the ball is important.”
When asked if he had thought of losing to Nigeria, Leekens replied: “I never think of losing, in general.”
Nigeria top Group B of African qualifying with three points, while both Algeria and Cameroon have one each, with Zambia pointless.