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Algeria, Egypt face off again

Published:Thursday | January 28, 2010 | 12:00 AM

LUANDA, Angola (AP):

After ending Egypt's hopes of reaching the World Cup for the first time since 1990, Algeria can now stop the Pharaohs in their bid to win a third straight African Cup of Nations in the latest edition of the teams' intense rivalry.

Today, Algeria take on Egypt in Benguela and Ghana play Nigeria in Luanda in the African Cup semi-finals.

Algeria, which last won the African Cup in 1990 and haven't reached the final four since then, will play at the World Cup in South Africa in June instead of Egypt, after a couple of play-offs that were marked by violence off the pitch.

While Algeria coach Rabah Saadane tried to downplay tensions ahead of today's match by saying it would "only be about football". Egypt striker Mohamed Zidan declared it would be about much more than that.

"It will be a matter of life and death in that game," Zidan said. "For both sides, it will be like a war. For us, it is a chance to show the world that we deserve to go to the World Cup and if we beat them we will be able to watch the World Cup with pride."

Unbeaten in 17 matches at the African Cup, Egypt have won all four games at this event capped by a 3-1 extra time win over Cameroon in the quarter-finals.

Without several of their top players including Amr Zaki and Mohamed Aboutrika but led by their emblematic captain Ahmed Hassan, the Egyptians have played attack-minded football and displayed impressive mental strength.

No pressure

"We are the ones who do not have any pressure," Zidan said. "We are the champions and we are better than them. Everybody will see which is the better team."

After drawing much criticism following a 3-0 loss to Malawi in its opening match, Algeria have improved in each game to knock out star-studded, tournament favourite Cte d'Ivoire in the quarter-finals.

Playing in the tournament for the first time since 2004, the Algerians looked to be heading out against Cte d'Ivoire until late goals from Madjid Bougherra and substitute Hameur Bouazza secured a 3-2 win in extra time.

"Egypt is a very good team. We also have momentum after a false start in the competition. It's a big game," Algeria defender Nadir Belhadj said. "We will try to develop our game from our previous games for a convincing result. We are under no pressure."