Egypt aim for tro­phy tre­ble

Pharoahs con­fi­dent of cup suc­cess

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT -

LUANDA: Hav­ing failed to qual­ify for the first World Cup on African soil, Egypt will have to set­tle for a chance to win an un­prece­dented third straight ti­tle at the African Cup of Na­tions.

Egypt, who haven’t played in a World Cup since 1990 and will miss this year’s show­case in South Africa, won the con­ti­nen­tal ti­tle at home in 2006 and then again in Ghana two years ago.

“Winning a third suc­ces­sive ti­tle would be an un­prece­dented achieve­ment,” Egypt as­sis­tant coach Shawki Gharib said. “We might wait a 100 more years to have such a chance again, so we should be fully fo­cused on do­ing our best in An­gola.”

At this year’s tour­na­ment, which starts to­mor­row and runs un­til Jan­uary 31, the six-time cham­pi­ons will face strong com­pe­ti­tion from Ivory Coast and Cameroon.

Egypt have sev­eral ex­pe­ri­enced play­ers, in­clud­ing Borus­sia Dort­mund striker Mo­hamed Zi­dan. They will be without in­jured play­maker Mo­hamed Aboutrika and Mido, who was omit­ted from She­hata’s squad.

Egypt open against Nige­ria on Tues­day in Group C. With John Obi Mikel and Taye Taiwo in the squad, Nige­ria qual­i­fied for the World Cup at the ex­pense of Tu­nisia and will be hop­ing to add a third con­ti­nen­tal ti­tle to vic­to­ries in 1980 and 1994.

Of the six African teams that have qual­i­fied for the World Cup, only South Africa will be miss­ing from the tour­na­ment in An­gola.

The other five – Al­ge­ria, Cameroon, Ghana, Ivory Coast and Nige­ria – will all be among the favourites this month.

Ivory Coast are in Group B with Burk­ina Faso, Togo and Ghana.

The Ivo­rians, who have not won the ti­tle since 1992, were also con­sid­ered favourites two years ago but lost to Egypt in the semi-fi­nals.

“This gen­er­a­tion has a re­spon­si­bil­ity,” Ivory Coast coach Vahid Halil­hodzic said. “They do not have to fail like the pre­vi­ous teams be­cause they have learned from past mis­takes. To­day they have the ar­du­ous task of bring­ing glory to the land es­pe­cially in the face of hope and ex­pectancy.”

Striker Di­dier Drogba is con­fi­dent his team can avoid the prob­lems it faced last time in Ghana.

“We will treat ev­ery op­po­nent with re­spect, hu­mil­ity and se­ri­ous­ness,” the Chelsea star said. “There is no room for com­pla­cency like in Ghana. No game is won in ad­vance.”

Chelsea’s Ghana mid­fielder Michael Essien, out with a ham­string in­jury since De­cem­ber, is still doubt­ful but the Black Stars will count on Asamoah Gyan and An­dre Ayew – a mem­ber of the un­der-20 team that won last year’s World Cup – to over­come their in­jury cri­sis.

Cameroon, who lost to Egypt in the 2008 fi­nal, will be looking for a fifth con­ti­nen­tal ti­tle and will face Gabon, Tu­nisia and Zam­bia in Group D.

The In­domitable Lions were last in their qual­i­fy­ing group when for­mer Paris Saint-Ger­main, Rangers and Lyon coach Paul Le Guen took over, strip­ping de­fender Rigobert Song of the cap­taincy and giv­ing it to In­ter Mi­lan striker Sa­muel Eto’o.

Song will play in the African tour­na­ment for a record eighth time in a row.

An­gola will be try­ing to be­come the 12th host coun­try to lift the tro­phy since 1957.

The Black An­telopes won’t have an easy task af­ter be­ing drawn in a dif­fi­cult Group A with Al­ge­ria, Mali and Malawi.

An­gola will take on Mali in to­mor­row’s tour na­ment opener with striker Flavio and mid­fielder Stelvio doubt­ful af­ter pick­ing up in­juries dur­ing friendly games.

“My main con­cern is to know if Flavio will be able to play,” An­gola coach Manuel Jose said. “With Stelvio, they are im­por­tant mem­bers of our team be­cause we don’t have star play­ers and we need all our key el­e­ments to make our team work.” – Sapa-AP

Mo­hamed Zi­dan

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