By Matt Carter
Perhaps ominously for the rest of tournament, Algeria appeared to be merely moving through the gears rather than hitting their peak in a largely routine win over Senegal that belittled the substantial connotations involved.
Nonetheless the evidence that Algeria are finding their feet in Equatorial Guinea is undeniable, nor is the emerging importance of Nabil Bentaleb who represented the Deesert Foxes’ heartbeat in Malabo.
That the Algerians dominated the midfield battle is in no small part down to the wonderfully rounded skills of the Tottenham man, who again showed his proficiency for the both breaking up and distributing of play in a performance that disparaged his fledgling years.
Alongside Saphir Taïder, Bentaleb was heavily responsible for Senegal failing to gain a genuine foothold on proceedings in the middle off the park, with the pair’s supremacy inevitably meaning that the West African’s bustling offensive resources were left starved of service.
Together with the consistent turnover of possession, Bentaleb was also able to provide a regular link to Algeria’s gifted offensive line. The second of those assets should not be undervalued, given that Senegal’s early exit can arguably be attributed to an absence of such a quality.
Underutilised and thus disappointing on the left wing last time out against Ghana, restoring Bentaleb to his favoured central role signified a key factor in Algeria’s rediscovering of themselves. With that in mind. it is difficult to envisage the midfielder occupying any other role for the remainder of the tournament.
A second half goal following a sweeping move will grab the headliners, yet that strike was purely the icing on the cake of what was a masterful performance from a player who possesses all the qualities to become one of African football’s most prestigious figures through the next decade.