Algerian players say Cameroon’s tropical climate was a factor in their 0-0 draw against minnows Sierra Leone in their first match at the Africa Cup of Nations.
The defending champions were held by a side ranked 108th in the world, despite carving out several chances in their Group E meeting played in the early afternoon in Douala.
Temperatures of over 30 degrees Celsius were reported in the port city on Tuesday, with humidity above 70%.
“It was very difficult with the heat, and especially for us who play in Europe. We are not used to it,” Algeria midfielder Haris Belkebla told BBC Sport Africa.
“We suffered a lot.”
Left-back Ramy Bensebaini, who saw a shot in second-half injury-time saved, described the match as “very complicated and very hot” while Sierra Leone defender Steven Caulker said the humidity in the Japoma Stadium was “crazy”.
The Desert Foxes are unbeaten in 35 senior international matches and have been heavily tipped to retain their title in Cameroon, but will hope for cooler conditions when they face Equatorial Guinea on Sunday.
North African sides have struggled to make an impact in Nations Cups hosted in sub-Saharan Africa with only Morocco, in Ethiopia in 1976, and Egypt, in Burkina Faso in 1998, Ghana in 2008 and Angola in 2010, lifting the trophy at such tournaments.
Algeria lost 3-0 to Malawi in their first game in 2010, and also drew 0-0 with the hosts before being beaten 4-0 by Egypt in the semi-finals. They were beaten quarter-finalists in Equatorial Guinea in 2015 and failed to get out of their group two years later in Gabon.
“We shouldn’t try and find excuses, we should adapt to the climatic conditions,” Belkebla, who plays for French Ligue 1 side Brest, added.
“We will continue to work to win the coming matches. The objective is clear – we all need to do more to get some victories, to qualify and go for this cup.”
The tournament was originally due to be staged in June and July last year but was moved to January 2021 to avoid Cameroon’s rainy season – but then delayed a year by the coronavirus pandemic.
Bensebaini admitted Algeria were frustrated by Leone Stars goalkeeper Mohamed Nbalie Kamara, who made a string of saves.
“If we didn’t score, it’s our fault,” the defender said.
“If we had managed to put the first goal, the match would have been different, the others would have come. We could have had a second a third, and even more because we had a lot of chances. It’s just, I hope, a faux pas, and we will quickly bounce back.
“My message to Algerians is: thank you for your encouragement, [and] to continue to believe in us. We don’t give up,”