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The delayed Africa Cup of Nations continues this afternoon as the defending champions kick off their Group E campaign in Douala.
Algeria bested Senegal to lift their first AFCON title since 1990 in Cairo in 2019, with many people fancying them to successfully retain that crown.
The Fennec Foxes are arguably the world’s form international team, putting together an incredible 34-match undefeated streak in competitive competition.
Boasting a strong squad spearheaded by the likes of Manchester City star Riyad Mahrez and West Ham’s Said Benrahma, Djamel Belmadi’s Arab Cup champions will be huge favourites to begin their latest campaign with a comfortable win today.
Sierra Leone have been on a recruitment drive in Europe in a bid to strengthen their squad, with former Liverpool and one-cap England defender Steven Caulker now in their ranks.
QPR right-back Osman Kakay and former Norwich striker Kei Kamara are among other key players for the Leone Stars, who haven’t played at AFCON since 1996 and are appearing at the tournament for only the third time.
Follow Algeria vs Sierra Leone LIVE with Standard Sport’s blog below!
Algeria vs Sierra Leone latest news
Kick-off time: 1pm GMT, Stade omnisport de Douala
How to watch: Sky Sports
Algeria team news: Mahrez leads holders, Benrahma on bench
Sierra Leone team news: Caulker starts
Prediction: Algeria 4-0 Sierra Leone
14:59 , Malik Ouzia
So a thoroughly disappointing start for the holders, who have games against Equatorial Guinea and Ivory Coast to come in Group E.
It’s far from panic stations given three teams will go through in four of the six groups but plenty of food for thought.
FT: Algeria 0-0 Sierra Leone
14:52 , Malik Ouzia
What a result for Sierra Leone. Algeria must improve.
14:52 , Malik Ouzia
90+4 mins: Free header!
In the final seconds, Baghdad Bounedjah gets up to head at goal from the corner but powers straight at the ‘keeper.
14:50 , Malik Ouzia
90+1 mins: Kamara to the rescue again!
This time it’s Bensebaini who cuts inside the defender and curls low at goal but he doesn’t start it out wide enough and the ‘keeper smother it.
14:44 , Malik Ouzia
86 mins: And he should have made it 1-0!
Benrahma is picked out by Atal on the penalty spot but scuffs it wide. Bad miss.
14:41 , Malik Ouzia
84 mins: Belkebla is the man to make way so that’s an attacking switch from Belmadi.
14:40 , Malik Ouzia
82 mins: Finally, we are going to see Said Benrahma...
14:39 , Malik Ouzia
81 mins: Great effort, great save.
Riyad Mahrez tries to take things into his own hands as he cushions to control and then lashes on his weaker right-foot towards the far corner but Kamara makes another top save.
14:36 , Malik Ouzia
78 mins: They have wasted it though - whipped straight out by Boulaya. Belmadi holds his head in his hands in the dugout.
14:35 , Malik Ouzia
77 mins: You feel there’s going to be a bit of an onslaught from Algeria in these final 15 minutes. They’ve got another free-kick in a decent position here and cannot afford to keep wasting these openings.
14:30 , Malik Ouzia
73 mins: Have Sierra Leone weather that particular storm?
They’re enjoying their first little spell in the Algerian half since before the break.
14:26 , Malik Ouzia
67 mins: How’s this not gone in?!
It’s brilliant first from Mahrez and then from Belaili, the latter squeezing across the face of goal for Bendebka, who thinks he’s scored, but Caulker makes a sensational block on the line.
14:23 , Malik Ouzia
64 mins: Looks like a triple change for Algeria - Boulaya, Benayada and Bounedjah are all on, with Slimani, Brahimi and Feghouli making way.
14:18 , Malik Ouzia
61 mins: More selfish play from Brahimi, who opts to go himself when found by Mahrez but can only fire straight at the ‘keeper. Algeria had numbers over there.
14:14 , Malik Ouzia
56 mins: And the pressure is building with it. Mahrez slides in Feghouli down the right and he has two in white waiting at the back-post but Caulker gets across in the nick of time to send it behind.
14:13 , Malik Ouzia
55 mins: It looks like there’s a little bit more control to Algeria’s play in the opening ten minutes of this half, they don’t look quite as vulnerable on the break.
14:10 , Malik Ouzia
52 mins: What a chance!
The best bit of football of the match by an absolute mile as Slimani and Mahrez combine to set Brahimi in on goal. His finish is scuffed down into the ground but that almost does for the goalkeeper as it bounces up awkwardly before he manages to cling on at the second attempt.
14:08 , Malik Ouzia
50 mins: Now a decent opportunity goes begging at the other end. Brahimi gets in behind his full-back and has options in the middle but feints inside two or three times before eventually being crowded out.
14:07 , Malik Ouzia
Alhaji Kamara has the ball in the net for Sierra Leone as he’s found in acres of space in the six-yard box. But there’s a reason he’s got so much room - he’s a yard or two offside.
14:03 , Malik Ouzia
We are back underway with a change to the Algerian team at the break - Djamel Benlamri is on in place of Abdelkader Bedrane, who had been booked, at centre-back.
14:02 , Malik Ouzia
Right then, the teams are making their way back out and we are almost ready to get up and running again. Fingers crossed for a bit more goal-mouth action.
13:57 , Malik Ouzia
Of course, where Djamel Belmadi is blessed is with decent options off the bench, most notably in the form of West Ham star Said Benrahma.
There is no Ismael Bennacer, however, because the AC Milan midfielder, who may well have started this game, is suspended after racking up the yellow cards in qualifying.
These lads haven’t seen a great deal to get excited about so far...
13:52 , Malik Ouzia
HT: Algeria 0-0 Sierra Leone
13:47 , Malik Ouzia
You’d have to say, it’ll be Sierra Leone who are the happier with that at the break.
13:43 , Malik Ouzia
43 mins: It’s fair to say Mohamed Kamara has been more than keen to come haring off his line at every opportunity in this half. He almost gets into bother again as the ball fails to drift into his area and he has to hold off Slimani as it bounces behind.
13:38 , Malik Ouzia
38 mins: Belaili takes it himself and whips in towards the near-post but it’s powerfully headed clear.
13:37 , Malik Ouzia
37 mins: Lovely bit of skill from Belaili as he nutmegs Kakay and then wins the free-kick as the defender blocks him off while he tries to collect the ball on the other side.
13:33 , Malik Ouzia
33 mins: There’s a bit of frustration creeping into the players’ body language with regards to the state of the pitch. Atal looks at it accusingly as a ball bobbles straight under his foot and out for a throw.
13:29 , Malik Ouzia
29 mins: It’s been really sloppy from Algeria in the final third so far, a few balls overhit and now one from Brahimi completely misdirected and pinged out of play behind the run of Belaili.
13:27 , Malik Ouzia
27 mins: Probing stuff from Mahrez, who plays an early ball in behind for Slimani to chase and the ball holds up a bit in the surface, meaning Mohamed Kamara is almost in a sticky spot as he races out but the ‘keeper manages to palm it away.
13:23 , Malik Ouzia
23 mins: Another massive chance for Sierra Leone!
This time it’s Umaru Bangura who goes close, getting up best to meet a free-kick curled in from the left but he can’t quite direct the header on target.
13:21 , Malik Ouzia
21 mins: One thing that has become clear already is that the pitch is not in great nick. We’ve seen the ball bobble up awkwardly and out of play off players on a couple of occasions already, including when Mahrez was trying to trap it down in the corner a few minutes ago.
13:15 , Malik Ouzia
15 mins: After that lively start from the underdogs, Algeria are just starting to enjoy their first spell of control. None of the tournaments favourites have found their openers particularly straightforward so far and Sierra Leone have shown enough early on to suggest it could be a similar story here.
13:10 , Malik Ouzia
9 mins: Terrific play from Atal as the Nice defender drives forward from right-back and uses the man outside him as a decoy to break into the box. His low ball is looking for Slimani, but it’s deflected harmlessly behind.
13:06 , Malik Ouzia
6 mins: Close!
It’s been a bright opening from both sides here and Alhaji Kamara is inches away from opening the scoring as he gets across his man to meet Bundu’s low cross but drives it just wide of the near-post.
13:04 , Malik Ouzia
3 mins: Straight up the other end, there’s the quality.
Riyad Mahrez drifts inside off the right and plays a clever reverse ball in behind for Islam Slimani to run onto. The former Leicester man rounds the ‘keeper but the angle closes on him and he can only find the side-netting.
13:02 , Malik Ouzia
2 mins: A shaky start from the holders as Atal undercuts a fairly simple back-pass and Abdelkader Bedrane has to be alert to race over and clear the danger ahead of Buya Turay.
13:00 , Malik Ouzia
We are up and running...
12:58 , Malik Ouzia
The teams are out, the stadium sparsely populated as looks likely to be the case throughout the tournament, but there is a decent pocket of support making a fair old racket.
Kick-off is a couple of minutes away...
12:51 , Malik Ouzia
Right then, ten minutes to go until kick-off in Douala.
The first couple of days of this tournament haven’t exactly produced any barnstormers - can the holders get off to a flier?
Caulker: Historic tournament ‘greater than football’ for Sierra Leone
12:41 , Malik Ouzia
As we mentioned a little earlier on, the one name you are probably familiar with in the Sierra Leone side is that of former Tottenham defender Steven Caulker.
Caulker scored on his England debut against Sweden in a friendly back in 2012 but despite being involved in several more squads, never made it onto the pitch again and switched allegiances to Sierra Leone - where his grandfather was born - last year.
“I want to experience international football, to play at the highest level,” he told the Mail.
“I had a very small taste of that with England, but when I walk out to represent Sierra Leone I will be thinking of all that. And all the people waiting outside the hotel before we left for Cameroon, running after our bus as we went off to play in the Africa Cup of Nations for the first time in 25 years. It’s so much greater than football.”
As they begin their defence, here’s a reminder of how Algeria won the cup in 2019...
12:29 , Malik Ouzia
Belmadi: Pressure can be a positive
12:15 , Malik Ouzia
Algeria boss Djamel Belmadi has urged his side to use the expectation on them to their advantage as they target back-to-back triumphs.
“The pressure on the title holders can only be a positive. When we went to the last Cup of Nations finals in Egypt, we were considered a team without much chance. But we won the trophy and everything was different, the respect was palpable,” Belmadi said.
“We are aware of this, and we want to stay up high, we want to be the best.
“There is no easy path in the Cup of Nations. There is a chance you get to the quarter-finals and you are up against one of Mali, Nigeria, Tunisia or Egypt, which would be like an African cup final!”
Sierra Leone team news
12:09 , Malik Ouzia
Sierra Leone XI: Nbalie Kamara, Kakay, Wright, J. Kamara, Caulker, Bangura, Bundu, Quee, A. Kamara, K. Kamara, Turay
Algeria team news
12:09 , Malik Ouzia
Algeria XI: M’Bolhi, Atal, Bensebaini, Belkebla, Mandi, Bedrane, Feghouli, Mahrez, Belaili, Slimani, Brahimi
11:55 , Malik Ouzia
We should have all the confirmed team news in five minutes’ time...
Arab Cup champions
11:50 , Malik Ouzia
That unbeaten run includes Algeria’s 2019 victory in this competition but does not even take into account their triumph at last month’s Arab Cup in Qatar, for which they sent an ‘A’ team which did not include any of their European based players.
The tournament doubled as a test event for this year’s World Cup, but despite their recent dominance, Algeria are not even certain to be at that tournament, with Africa’s five representatives to be decided in playoff matches in March.
11:39 , Malik Ouzia
Algeria come into this tournament on a remarkable 34-game unbeaten streak, their last defeat coming in an AFCON qualifier against Benin way back in October 2018.
That means that they are within sight of Italy’s world record run of 37 unbeaten games, which came to an end against Spain in the Uefa Nations league last year, and should they reach the quarter-finals in Cameroon they will surpass that mark, provided they do so without losing in the group stage.
11:32 , Malik Ouzia
The two teams have not met since a 2-0 victory for Algeria in the 1996 Cup of Nations.
Algeria wins: 2
Sierra Leone wins: 1
Standard Sport prediction
11:25 , Malik Ouzia
Algeria will be out to start the defence of their crown with a bang and their opponents may be powerless to stop them.
Algeria to win, 4-0.
Sierra Leone team news
11:17 , Malik Ouzia
For Sierra Leone, ex-England international Steven Caulker should start at the back in a team featuring QPR right-back Osman Kakay and veteran striker Kei Kamara, who has featured for the likes of Norwich, Middlesbrough and most recently Finnish side HIFK.
Algeria team news
11:11 , Malik Ouzia
Djamel Belmadi left both Rachid Ghezzal and Andy Delort out of his squad for the tournament but Algeria are not lacking in striking options.
West Ham winger Said Benrahma may have to settle for a place on the bench with Al Sadd striker Baghdad Bounedjah flanked by Youcef Belaïli and Riyad Mahrez.
How to watch the game
11:08 , Malik Ouzia
TV channel: The match will be televised on Sky Sports Premier League and Football, with coverage beginning at 12.55pm.
Live stream: Sky Sports subscribers will be able to watch the match online via the Sky Go app.
Welcome to Algeria vs Sierra Leone LIVE coverage!
11:03 , George Flood
Hello and welcome to Standard Sport’s latest LIVE coverage of the Africa Cup of Nations!
We’ve got a heavyweight Group D tussle between Nigeria and Egypt to come later today, but first our attentions are on events in Douala, where Algeria begin their title defence against Sierra Leone.
The Fennec Foxes won their first AFCON title since 1990 in Cairo in 2019 and many are backing them for glory again as they enter the tournament on the back on a remarkable undefeated streak.
Kick-off today is at 1pm GMT, so follow all the match build-up, latest team news and live updates right here!