The three-time African champions were shocked by a stunning free-kick at the death of their semi-final game on Sunday.
Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr admitted his players were relaxed at the end of the game when they wanted to force Algeria into an additional 30 minutes of football in Sunday’s semi-final clash.
The Super Eagles fought back from a goal deficit in the second half to hold Djamel Belmadi’s men to a 1-1 draw until injury time.
After four additional minutes in stoppage time, Riyad Mahrez rose to the occasion and scored a free-kick in the last minute of the game to break Nigerian hearts.
The loss dashed the Super Eagles’ hopes of claiming their fourth Afcon title but Rohr praised his team’s fighting spirit despite the late stunner from ‘football genius’ Mahrez.
“It was a big fight until the last minute, it was a wonderful match, I think my players wanted it to go to extra time thinking Algeria was more tired,” Rohr was quoted as saying by Reuter.
“We scored an own goal, unlucky, but we have come back every time in this tournament and this time we came back on a penalty. But a wonderful free kick from a football genius made the difference.”
Nigeria will face Tunisia in Wednesday’s third-place encounter at the Al-Salam Stadium in Cairo.