The Algeria national team’s preparations for the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations got off to an unusual start. The Fennec Foxes were training this week behind closed doors in the Ivory Coast city of Bouaké. Although no visitors were allowed during the sessions, a drone was seen flying over the team on Friday while they trained.

Video on social media eventually showed that the man flying the drone was questioned by police officers.

DZ Foot wrote that the pilot was a local man who works for an Algerian news outlet. A separate news source claimed that the drone operator was actually arrested for the incident.

Nevertheless, Algeria head coach Djamel Belmadi clearly did not want any media attention during his training sessions at the tournament. This was also evident in the team’s two friendlies leading up to the massive competition. Algeria topped Togo 3-0 and Burundi 4-0 behind closed doors earlier this month as they prepared for a deep tournament run.

Fennec Foxes one of the favorites to lift the trophy

Algeria enters the Africa Cup of Nations as one of the top teams of the tournament. The team is currently 30th in the world on the FIFA rankings. This is the fourth-highest ranking of any team at the competition.

Betting websites also generally give the Algerians the fourth-best odds to collect the trophy next month. Only Morocco, Senegal, and the host nation of the Ivory Coast currently have better odds to win the competition.

The Fennec Foxes are currently led by captain Riyad Mahrez. The winger previously starred for Premier League duo Leicester City and Manchester City before joining Al-Ahli last summer. Mahrez previously led Algeria to the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations title. While the attacker did earn a spot in the team of the tournament, his teammate Ismael Bennacer eventually won the best player award.

Bennacer, Mahrez, and the rest of the Algeria team, will kick off their 2023 Africa Cup of Nations play against Angola on Monday, January 15th. Along with Angola, the Fennec Foxes will also face Burkina Faso and Mauritania in Group D. Algeria are favorites to top their group. After all, the team did not lose a single match in 2023 or the start of the current year.

Tournament starts on Saturday and runs for one month

Although Algeria don’t begin their campaign until Monday, the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations officially starts on Saturday, January 13th. Hosts Ivory Coast faces Guinea-Bissau at 3:00 PM (EST). The Elephants have a strong team that features stars such as Nicolas Pepe, Serge Aurier, Franck Kessie, and Sebastien Haller.

Senegal is the current reigning champions of the competition after beating Mohamed Salah’s Egypt in 2021. The title match went to penalty kicks. However, the Liverpool star actually did not get to take part in the shootout.

2023 Africa Cup of Nations matches will be broadcast in the United States on beIN SPORTS. The sports channel is accessible on streaming services such as Fubo, Fanatiz, and Sling.

Photo credit: IMAGO / NurPhoto.