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Goal.com takes a look at some of the most important landmarks in the former Algeria boss’ managerial career

By Rami Ayari

Former Algerian national team coach Rabah Saadane was recently named Africa's top coach by the Africa International Sport Convention (CISA) during the sixth edition of their gala event in Bamako, Mali.

The 65-year-old was hailed as the only coach in the world to have qualified teams to four Fifa World Cups, including a junior level participation.

Below are some of the moments that defined his distinguished career as a coach.

5. WINNING THE 1989 AFRICAN CUP OF CHAMPIONS CLUB
After showing such promise at international level while coaching Algeria, Saadane switched focus and took over Raja Casablanca in 1988. His first handling of a club side went well, as he lifted the 1989 African Cup of Champion Clubs - the equivalent of today’s Caf Champions League.

It wasn’t easy for him or his Moroccan players, who had to oust some of the continents biggest sides, Inter Club Brazzaville (2-1 on aggregate) and Tonerre Yaounde (4-2 on aggregate) in the quarter and semi-finals respectively.

As fate would have it, the opposition in the final were MP Oran and Saadane used his intimate knowledge of the club and Algerian football in general to prepare for the matches. After a 1-1 aggregate score, the second leg went to penalties and the Moroccans won 4-2, giving Saadane his first club trophy in the process.

4. FIFA WORLD YOUTH CHAMPIONSHIP QUALIFICATION

Algeria’s qualification for the 1979 Fifa World Youth Championship was extremely significant in that it represented the north African country’s first major participation on the global stage at any age level. While he wasn’t retained for the tournament itself, Algeria owe their ticket to the competition in Japan in large part to Saadane’s work on the training ground.

The young coach, a relatively inexperienced 33-year-old at the time, guided the Under-20’s to a hard-fought 1979 African Youth Championship title after victory over Guinea thanks to 2-1 home win in Algiers and a 3-2 away loss in Conakry. Prior to that, the Fennecs beat Libya (3-2), Tunisia (2-1), and Ethiopia (1-0) on aggregate. Algeria’s coronation as the U20 kings of Africa was a breakthrough for Saadane as well as his country.

3. OUSTING COTE D'IVOIRE AT THE 2010 AFCON

After a shock 3-0 loss to Malawi in the group stage opener of the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon), Algeria recovered to defeat Mali 1-0, and drew with hosts Angola 0-0 in the final group match. The Fennecs’ steady improvement after their humiliating defeat to the Flames showcased Saadane’s ability to re-instill confidence in his men when they needed it most.

However, the best was yet to come for the gutsy north Africans, who pulled off one of the shocks of the tournament by eliminating the star-studded Cote d'Ivoire in the quarter-finals.

The Algerians twice came back from a goal down to eventually earn a 3-2 extra time victory, with Saadane’s replacement of Mourad Meghni with Hameur Bouazza proving to be a masterstroke as the latter dealt the killer blow in the 93rd minute.

2. BEATING EGYPT IN BLIDA

Algeria’s 3-1 victory over fierce rivals Egypt, the African champions at the time, was undoubtedly one of the most important result of Saadane’s coaching career.

Knowing that they would have to travel to the ever-ominous Cairo Stadium later in the qualifying campaign, the Fennecs went all out for a victory in an intense atmosphere at the jam-packed Mustapha Tchaker Stadium in Blida.

Saadane was rewarded for his daring gamble of a trident attack composed of Karim Matmour, Rafik Djebbour, and Abdelkader Ghezzal as all three strikers scored in the second half to secure vital three points for their country. Indeed, they would end up needing every one of those goals as a complete dead heat in the final standings between the two sides forced an epic play-off to separate them.

1. QUALIFYING FOR THE 2010 WORLD CUP

After a highly charged 2-0 loss to the Pharaohs in Cairo that was preceded by an attack on the Algerian team bus, a play-off in Khartoum was necessary to determine who between the two nations would go to South Africa 2010.

The Fennecs had been largely in control of their group since their 3-1 home win but now Saadane and his team faced their sternest test as the momentum seemed to have switched hands.

Despite the huge disappointment of failing to hold on in the dying seconds of the previous match, the coach managed to somehow lift his team's morale.

With starting goalkeeper Lounes Gaouaoui suspended, Saadane did not hesitate in handing inexperienced Faouzi Chaouchi his maiden start at international level. It was a risky move, but it paid instant dividends as Chaouchi put in a Man of the Match performance and denied Egypt time and time again to help Algeria qualify for their first World Cup in over 20 years.

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