Sofiane Khelfa on the Algerian national team

Algerian football fan Sofiane Khelfa rose to fame earlier in the year on the BBC’s business competition The Apprentice. Here’s what he had to say on the current state of the national team, ahead of the key World Cup qualification clash against Nigeria. 

On the current state of the dressing room…

“You get big name players who have a lot of influence. The last game [against Cameroon] was quite embarrassing. Feghouli and Brahimi; from the manager’s perspective they are two players who don’t play at the moment for their clubs. So that means in football terms that they’re not fit. So you can understand why they’re sitting as a sub. Because they’re big names, when they go to Algeria they turn into Algerian mode. It’s not healthy to have players like that in the dressing room. Everyone just needs to put their head down and put it on the pitch, which the likes of Mahrez do. He’s a very humble player, he’s not the sort of guy who would cause problems even if you sit him on the bench.”

On Algeria’s chances at the African Cup…

“African football is difficult. We’re not great in the African tournaments because it’s difficult and it’s tough. We’re good at passing, moving. A more European style. We’re not gonna do anything. The way we’ve gone in the last five years, we aren’t gonna do nothing in African football. We need to qualify for the World Cup. Our style of play and our team; players individually are not fit for African style of play. They wouldn’t be able to adapt. Climate, humidity, you need to adapt. African football is aggressive and very fast and it’s becoming even tougher. But when we play the likes of France and Germany, teams who play football, that’s when we’ve got a chance.”

On Algeria’s chances of qualifying for Russia 2018…

“Hopefully we will. This is it. If we miss this one, this is it. This team will be too old for the next one. They have to win the next game. If they draw or lose the next game, then it’s out the window. Fingers crossed they’ll win the next game. We’ve proven that we’ve done it before. We’ve gone away in Africa and we’ve won. The players have just got to put their hearts on and roll up their sleeves.

Bechir Ramzy/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
Bechir Ramzy/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

On Nigeria vs Algeria…

“Nigeria are dangerous. They’ve got some good players. Ahmed Musa would finish our right-back. He’s quick, he’s fast. We’ve got to go out there and probably park the bus and have some quick players who can go forwards. Put Slimani up top who can run. And then put someone just behind him.”

On Riyad Mahrez…

“Mahrez is good and he’s got the potential but he needs to be professional and work hard. He’s at his peak, but how long can he stay there? Technically he’s very good, but he just needs to keep fit. He’s the sort of player who can come out of nothing. He can give you a boring 80 minutes but the final 10 minutes he can come out and win you the game. Last year if you look at him, he had to work hard defensively too. He needs to train hard and I think he’s got what it takes. His display in the Champions League is world class and he’s got that about him. He just needs to focus. That’s the thing with Algerians – it’s discipline. I think Mahrez has the right personality to be humble and carry on doing what he’s doing. I give him credit for staying at Leicester. He’s stayed loyal. He’s not looking for big teams, he just wants to play. That’s where he’s made his success.”

We thank Sofiane for taking the time to speak. You can follow him on Twitter, @sofiane_khelfa.

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