Hosts and title favorites Algeria beat Libya 1-0 on Friday in the opening match of the 2022 African Nations Championship (CHAN) thanks to a second-half penalty converted by Aymen Mahious.
The lone striker in the starting XI scored in the 57th minute in Algiers after a weak pass back led to a foul by goalkeeper Muad Allafi.
Algeria will be hoping to win a competition reserved for footballers playing in their country of birth for the first time after finishing fourth in a previous appearance 12 years ago.
The 40,000-capacity crowd at the Stade Nelson Mandela included Algerian Prime Minister Aymen Benabderrahmane, FIFA President Gianni Infantino and his CAF counterpart Patrice Motsepe.
Ethiopia plays Mozambique at the same venue on Saturday in the other game of the opening round of the mini-league.
It will be followed by a Group B doubleheader in the northeastern city of Annaba with two-time champions Democratic Republic of the Congo taking on Uganda before Ivory Coast takes on Senegal.
There are 17 countries hoping to succeed Morocco as winners of a tournament first staged in 2009 and won by the Democratic Republic of Congo in Côte d’Ivoire.
Morocco withdrew at the last minute after Algeria refused to authorize a direct flight that would have taken the delegation from Rabat to Constantine, the Group C base.
Among the effects of the severing of diplomatic ties between the North African neighbors is the ban since 2021 on Moroccan planes entering Algerian airspace.
Morocco had hoped to win a third straight CHAN title after beating Nigeria 4-0 in the 2018 final in Casablanca and Mali 2-0 in the following final in Yaoundé.
With three groups of four and two of three, the original plan was for two teams to advance to the quarterfinals from each larger section and one from the smaller.
The withdrawal of Morocco, which leaves Ghana, Madagascar and Sudan in Group C, means that there are now three sections with three teams and seven quarterfinals instead of eight.
One possible solution would be to qualify for the best runners-up among the three-team mini-leagues, but CAF has yet to reveal its plan.