Nigeria – Algeria Combined Best XI

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The two African football giants clash on Friday in Austria in a repeat of last year’s Afcon semifinal face-off edged by the Desert Foxes.

Algeria are the current Afcon champions and boast of one of the continent’s most talented and most consistent sides. The North Africans have not lost any of their last 18 games.

Nigeria, though, are three-time African champions, winning their last continental crown seven years ago.

As the two national teams meet for the 21st time in history, Soccernet.ng put together the finest eleven of the Super Eagles and the Fennecs.

Goalkeeper: Rais M’Bolhi

While Eagles’ head coach Gernot Rohr is still uncertain on his number one gloves man, Algeria has no such worries.

In Rais M’Bolhi, the Foxes have one of Africa’s most respected shot-stoppers. The 34-year-old is gradually nearing the end of an incredible career, but he was still crucial to Algeria’s title charge at Egypt 2019.

He may not be in goal for his country on Friday night, but his 72 international caps are a testament to his brilliance and longevity.

Right-back: Kenneth Omeruo

One area Algeria is short of quality is at right-back where Mehdi Zeffane holds sway. The 28-year-old plays for KS Samara in the Russian second tier.

Any of Fulham’s Ola Aina, Boavista’s Chidozie Awaziem, and even Leganes’ Kenneth Omeruo would do a better job defending the team’s right flank.

The former Chelsea defender, however, gets the nod at his less favourite role with his experience and quality, handing him the advantage over his compatriots.

Left-back: Ramy Bensebaini

Rohr has, in recent times, settled for Paderborn’s Jamilu Collins as his preferred left-back choice after previously trying the likes of Bryan Idowu and Aina in that role.

But even on their best days, none of those could readily outshine Borussia Monchengladbach’s Ramy Bensebaini.

The Algerian fullback won the Coupe de France with Rennes last year before becoming the most expensive Algerian defender ever with his 8 million euros move to the Bundesliga.

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The 25-year-old is an undeniable influence in defence.

Centre-back: William Troost-Ekong

Troost-Ekong’s surprise switch from Serie A’s Udinese to relegated Watford has had some question the defender’s quality.

But his excellent displays for Nigeria since making his debut in 2015 under the tutelage of the late Stephen Keshi has his place sealed as one of the country’s best defenders of this decade.

While his rivalry with West Brom’s Semi Ajayi would be interesting to watch in the coming days, Ekong remains one of the first names on Rohr’s list any day.

Centre-back: Aïssa Mandi

Nigerian fans have a new name to follow in the Bundesliga following the confirmation that former German youth international Kevin Akpoguma can now feature for the Super Eagles.

Until the 25-year-old makes his debut and shows what he can do, the right player to partner Troost-Ekong is Aïssa Mandi.

The Real Betis defender already has 55 caps for Algeria and was the strongman of the Foxes defence that was one of the meanest at Egypt 2019.

Defensive Midfield: Wilfred Ndidi

Injury has ruled out Leicester City’s Wilfred Ndidi from this Friday’s international friendly match, but he has been one of Nigeria’s most consistent performers in recent seasons.

There are very few defensive midfielders who are better than Ndidi in the world, much less in Africa, and it only fits to let the former Genk man take his place on this combined XI team.

A regular for club and country, Ndidi is crucial to whatever success the Super Eagles and Leicester enjoy in the coming years.

Centre-Midfield: Ismaël Bennacer

Ismael Bennacer was only 18 years old when he made his Algeria national team debut in 2016 during the management of Milovan Rajevac.

The youngster finally came of age at the African Cup of Nations last year, where he was named player of the tournament after helping Algeria to their second-ever title.

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A smooth operator in the centre of the park for Serie A giants AC Milan, Bennacer works tirelessly to dictate play and ensure his country dominates opponents.

Nigeria will have to cage this young Fox to stand a chance of winning on Friday.

Attacking-Midfield: Alex Iwobi

In Sofiane Feghouli and Yacine Brahimi, Algeria have two 30-year-old wingers who can function effectively as playmakers.

But age is no longer on these veterans’ side, and they are no longer as quick and sharp as they once were.

This plants the creative responsibility of this team on the tender shoulders of Everton’s Alex Iwobi.

The former Arsenal star had a less-than-memorable debut campaign with the Toffees, but he was impressive at the Afcon where Nigeria claimed the tournament’s bronze medal.

Fast and tricky on the ball, Iwobi boasts a quick turn of pace, is fond of the nut-megs to take the defender out of the game and can provide the final passes for his forwards to find the back of the net.

Right-Forward: Riyad Mahrez

The presence of Riyad Mahrez, captain of the Algerian national team, means there is no room for Nigeria’s skipper Ahmed Musa on this combined list. The reason is not so far fetched.

Mahrez is not just one of the finest Africa players in the English Premier League, but also in the world.

The Man City star is the poster boy of the Desert Foxes and was the hero as Algeria romped to glory in Egypt in 2019.

Nigerian fans have still not forgotten the 29-year-old’s stunning injury-time free-kick for Algeria against Nigeria in the Africa Cup of Nations semi-final, a goal that was later named the African Goal of the Year.

Mahrez, 2016 CAF African Footballer of the Year, has been so good that even the hugely talented Villarreal winger Samuel Chukwueze has to make do with a spot on the substitute bench.

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Left-Forward: Moses Simon

Brentford’s Said Benrahma shone like a million stars in the Championship last term and is set for another exciting year in the English second-tier after failing to secure a Premier League move before the transfer window slammed shut a few days ago.

But three caps for Algeria shows he is not proven yet at the international level, leaving the door open for the duo of Samuel Kalu and Moses Simon to stake their claim on a starting shirt.

The Nantes forward, however, wings it as his four goals and five assists in 30 games for the Super Eagles hand him the edge.

Simon was Nantes Player of the Year and the winner of the French club’s Goal of the Season, all while on loan from La Liga side, Levante.

The 25-year-old winger is yet to get into his grove this campaign, but there is little doubt that he is one of Rohr’s most reliable performer.

Centre-Forward: Victor Osimhen

Algeria and Nigeria are blessed with an array of top-quality goal scorers including the likes of Cyriel Dessers, Paul Onuachu, Baghdad Bounedjah, Andy Delort, and Islam Slimani.

But none of them holds as much potential as former Lille goal-king Victor Osimhen.

Osimhen became Africa’s most expensive footballer this summer when he moved from Ligue 1 to Napoli. 

The one-time Golden Eaglets hero scored 38 goals over the past two years and has already shown signs that he would terrorise Italian defenders this term.

The 21-year-old has been likened to two legendary strikers – Rashidi Yekini and Didier Drogba – and it, therefore, is no surprise that he leads the line for this Nigeria versus Algeria combined best eleven.

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