Major Decisions Ahead for Coupe du Monde 2026: Petkovic Faces Vital Choices!

Vladimir Petkovic’s starting eleven and decisions last Thursday against Guinea were not good. And it precipitated the defeat (1-2) that triggered distress signals among El-Khadra. After the poor performance, the Fennecs coach hinted at making changes next Monday against Uganda in the 4th round of the 2026 World Cup qualifiers. And – at the very least – 4 “new” players could start in all three compartments.

“I take responsibility for this defeat. We must not give in to pessimism, we must focus on the match against Uganda. Adjustments may be necessary,” Petkovic said in the post-match press conference against Guinea.

Mandrea, a shadow of doubt

The starting eleven to face Uganda is likely to be revamped. The main question revolves around the goalkeeper with Moustapha Zeghba likely to replace Anthony Mandrea who did not reassure Petkovic. However, given the sensitivity of the position, Mandrea may be retained. And it’s the defensive axis, where Mohamed-Amine Tougaï did not shine and may be dropped from the eleven (perhaps in favor of Zinedine Belaïd who was there for the match against Uganda in June 2023 under Djamel Belmadi), that will see changes.

In midfield, Ismaël Bennacer will make a return. He who has not yet played under the Bosnian’s orders. The discussion between the two men to ease tensions would have been beneficial and AC Milan player is expected to start. It remains to be seen who he will collaborate with (Bentaleb or Zerrouki). Seeing Ahmed Kendouci lined up would not be ruled out.

Reprieve for Gouiri?

Furthermore, Yacine Brahimi’s absence will free up a spot up front. Amine Gouiri, who has been quiet as a striker, could be realigned (he will be in competition with Mohamed El Amine Amoura) as a 9.5 behind Baghdad Bounedjah who is expected to rejoin the starting lineup in a possible 4-4-2 or 5-3-2 formation. An association with Monsef Bakrar has also been tested in training.

These are still probabilities. But one thing is certain: the national team can no longer afford mistakes. And, to pass this test, the right formula must be found. Petkovic will have to make tough decisions to not lose the top spot in Group G, which they still hold thanks to the goal difference (+3) while El-Khadra has 6 points. The same total as Guinea (+1), Mozambique (+1), and Uganda (+0).

🔴Group G standings before the 4th round scheduled to start from Monday. pic.twitter.com/xXpU5nk9GT
— La Gazette du Fennec (@LGDFennec) June 8, 2024