The 2021 Africa Cup of Nations is most likely the last tournament Islam Slimani will take part in. But, surely for the 33-year-old, nothing would be better to cap a scintillating international career than helping your country defend the title.
Algeria won the Afcon tournament for the second ever time in 2019, having done so the first time in 1990, and Slimani was a key member of the team when Fennec Foxes did so two years ago.
One with an eye for goal, the lanky striker started banging in goals for Algeria a month after his debut in June 2012 scoring the third goal against Rwanda in the 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifiers. And since then, he would never misplace his scoring boots scoring against Mali and Gambia in the following games.
He was, however, part of the ill-prepared Algeria squad in 2013, when the North African side was knocked out of the tournament in the group stages.
But a year late at the FIFA World Cup in Brazil, Slimani led by example scoring against South Korea and Russia, helping the teamqualify for the knockout stages of the tournament – a rare feat for African team in the quadrennial football spectacle. The held their own in the against to the eventual champions Germany, eventually losing 2-1.
Although South Africa, as usual, failed to qualify for the current tournament in Cameroon, they will remember Slimani quite well. When South Africa made a rare appearance at the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations it was Slimani who hammered the final nail in Bafana Bafana’s 3-1 loss in the opening match of the tournament, ensuring once again that South African would play mathematicians going into the following fixtures.
Quick on the ball, and blessed with the wit to place himself in very good positions in front of goals, the well-travelled goal poacher who currently plays for Olympique Lyon in France, enjoyed good form with Les Fennecs going into this tournament. He scored four goals in the 8-0 annihilation of Djibouti and a brace against Niger in the 2022 FIFA World Cup – a form Algeria’s all-time top goalscorer will be hoping to carry into the Afcon 2021 as they aim to defend their championship.