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Egypt eyes historic treble at African Cup

Published:Saturday | January 9, 2010 | 12:00 AM

LUANDA, Angola (AP):

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 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.

experienced players

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."

Ivory Coast 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.

looking for a fifth continental title

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 tournament 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."