The dreaded group stage exit by Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) title holders came to pass as Algeria were served a 3-1 beating by razor-sharp Ivory Coast at the 50,000 capacity Japoma Stadium in Douala, Cameroon on Thursday night.
The Desert Foxes who edged out Senegal 1-0 in the final Cairo, Egypt to win the 2019 edition headed into the decider winless in the opening two matches and on the back of a snapped up run of playing 35 matches without losing.
Algeria drew the opener 0-0 with returnees Sierra Leone then, lost the second game 1-0 to Equatorial Guinea and had a final group E game against a star-studded Ivory Coast to save their faces.
“Everyone was talking about our unbeaten run but now we need to focus on something else, go out and secure qualification,” head coach Djamel Belmadi said days to the game.
They needed a win but things did not go to plan, the two-time AFCON champions were already trailing 2-0 to the break courtesy of goals from Franck Kessie and Ibrahim Sangare.
Nicholas Pepe added a third for the Elephants in the second half before Algeria won a penalty only for Riyad Mahrez to blast the post.
Sofiane Bendebka scored Algeria’s consolation as the match ended 3-1, the Desert Foxes luting bottom of Group E without a single point and without recording a single win.
Group winners Ivory Coast and second-placed Equatorial Guinea made it to the knockout round, automatically.
This is the fifth time in the history of AFCON finals that a defending champion has failed to make it past the group stage.
Algeria who won their first AFCON title in 1990, suffered a similar fate in 1992 after they were served a 3-0 beating by Ivory Coast and bundled out in the group stages.
Ivory Coast went on to win the tournament.