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Algeria coach Petkovic explains Bennacer omission in defeat to Guinea

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Ismaël Bennacer was absent from the field in Algeria’s 1-2 defeat to Guinea during the 2026 World Cup qualifiers on Thursday. The AC Milan midfielder, an essential figure in the Fennecs lineup, was expected to play a crucial role, especially against high-profile opponents like Karim Benzema.

Vladimir Petkovic, who faced his first loss since taking charge of the Algerian national team on February 29, opted instead for a midfield pairing of Nabil Bentaleb and Ramiz Zerrouki.

The choice backfired, prompting Petkovic to address his decision in the post-match press conference.

“I thought with Bentaleb and Zerrouki, we had two physically strong and present players in that area,” Petkovic explained. “I needed these players, which is why Bennacer didn’t come on.

Additionally, changes on the Guinea side influenced my substitutions. I didn’t bring him in because it wasn’t a match made for him.”

Despite his tactical reasoning, the result did not justify Petkovic’s choices as Algeria suffered a setback in their qualifying campaign.

The defeat, however, does not dethrone them from the top of Group G, but it adds pressure ahead of their next fixture.

Bennacer’s Possible Return Against Uganda

As the Fennecs prepare for their next qualifier against Uganda on Monday, Petkovic has hinted at potential changes in his starting eleven.

With the team still leading Group G despite the defeat, another poor performance could jeopardize their standing.

Ismaël Bennacer, who boasts 49 caps and two goals for Algeria, could see his return to the starting lineup.

His absence from recent games stems from an adductor injury sustained during AFCON 2023, which also caused him to miss the March gathering after being deemed unfit by the medical team.

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The upcoming match against Uganda presents an opportunity for Bennacer to re-establish his influence in the midfield.

Whether he starts or comes on as a substitute remains to be seen, but his involvement could be pivotal as Algeria seeks to bounce back from the Guinea defeat.

Petkovic’s decisions will be closely scrutinized, and the pressure to deliver a convincing performance is mounting.

The Algerian coach will need to balance his tactical approach with the squad’s dynamics to ensure the Fennecs secure vital points on their road to the 2026 World Cup.

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