African Cup of Nations 2006: Group A
Group A | Group B | Group C | Group D |
Coach: Hassan Shehata
Captain: Ahmed Hassan
Nickname: The Pharaohs
Cup record: Winners 1957, 1959, 1986, 1998; Qualified 20 times
One to watch: Ahmed 'Mido' Hossam
A series of disappointing results culminating in a 2-1 defeat to South Africa in their final warm up game - for both team and stadium facilities - has not dampened any of the enthusiastic expectancy of a fervent home support that has been looking forward to this month since they were awarded hosting rights.
Two of the four titles Egypt have won have come on home soil but a demanding crowd could prove a double edged sword with fears that an intense home support could actually hinder the Pharaohs. Failure to reach the World Cup has only added to the desperation of the side to do well.
Perhaps as a tool for lifting flagging spirits, coach Hassan Shehata has drafter into the squad aging legend Hossam Hassan. A veteran of the 1998 tournament that Egypt won in emphatic fashion in Burkina Faso, the 39-year-old is unlikely to figure on the pitch all that much, but his winning mentality and status in Egyptian football, it is hoped, will raise the performances of those around him.
Shehata himself knows the pressures of playing for his country whilst hosting the tournament. In a decade long spell playing for the national team he played in three finals, the first of which was the 1974 version in the North African state. Taking over from Italian Marco Tardelli in 2004, Shehata has yet to convince and is still largely trading on his reputation as a player. Failure this month may well exhaust such good will.
A measure of guile is provided in the form of midfielder Mohamed Barakat, fresh from leading Cairo club Al Ahli to the African Champions League. A huge local favourite, if Egypt are to go all the way, Barakat will need to be on the top of his game from the first whistle to last.
Bullish box play from Ahmed 'Mido' Hossam is Egypt's most potent weapon in front of goal and that he is playing regularly for Spurs and scoring goals will be welcome news following a series of short lived and controversial spells in seemingly every major European league, despite his tender age of 22.
If Barakat's Al Ahli team-mate Mohamed Aboutrika is able to feed off the knock-downs of the big target man Egypt could be in business.
Fears abound that if the Pharaohs fail to progress from a group that is by no means a formality, local interest will evaporate to the detriment of the competition as a whole. A team looking to get back to the glory of their recent past, they are an outside bet to reach the final.
Goalkeepers: 23-Mohamed Abou Moncef (Zamalek), 1-Essam Al Hadari (Al Ahli), 16-Abdelwahed El Sayed (Zamalek)
Defenders: 3-Mohamed Abdelwahab (Al Ahli), 5-Abdelzaher El Saqqa (Konyaspor, Turkey), 2-Ahmed El Sayed (Al Ahli), 13-Tarek El Sayed (Zamalek), 7-Ahmed Fathi (Ismaili), 20-Wael Gomaa (Al Ahli), 4-Ibrahim Said (Zamalek)
Midfielders: 8-Hosni Abd Rabou (Racing Strasbourg, France), 22-Mohamed Aboutrika, 12-Mohamed Barakat (both Al Ahli), 21-Ahmed Eid Abdelmalek (Harras Al Hodoud), 17-Ahmed Hassan (Besiktas, Turkey), 6-Hassan Mostafa (Al Ahli), 18-Samir Sabri (ENPPI), 11-Mohamed Shawki (Al Ahli)
Strikers: 14-Abdelhalim Ali (Zamalek), 9-Hossam Hassan (Al Masry), 15-Ahmed 'Mido' Hossam (Tottenham Hotspur, England), 10-Emad Moteab (Al Ahli), 19-Amr Zaki (ENPPI)
Coach: Henri Michel
Captain: Didier Drogba
Nickname: The Elephants
Cup record: Winners 1992; Qualified 16 times
One to watch: Didier Drogba
Conspicuous by their absence at the last Nations Cup finals, Ivory Coast, fresh from a first World Cup qualification, are perhaps second only to Cameroon as favourites to lift the trophy next month.
With quality and strength through the entire team thanks to a host of players having racked up experience in strong leagues, as well as European competition, it is difficult to find fault with a team that finished above group rivals Egypt and Libya, as well as Cameroon in qualifying. A reversal at the hands of the Indomitable Lions back in September was the only significant blot on 18 months of success.
Usually employing an attacking trident spearheaded by Didier Drogba, with support from firebrand Aruna Dindane, Belgian league footballer of the year in 2004, and Paris St Germain's Bonaventure Kalou, the death of one of Dindane's daughters means he has left to attend the funeral and doubts remain whether he wil be in a fit state to play later in the tournament. Dindane's absence will weaken their attacking options, though the sight of Drogba and Kalou alone should strike fear in to every defence at Egypt 2006; Drogba's international record of 17 goals from just 22 games is staggering and his goals in qualifying were largely responsible for ensuring his side topped a difficult group.
In the middle Didier Zokora, the St Etienne playmaker coveted by a host of top European clubs, including Manchster United, can put his exceptional talents in the shop window this month and, were Ivory Coast to go all the way, would undoubtedly add to the eventual transfer fee he will command.
At the back Arsenal's Kolo Toure and Emmanuel Eboue form the backbone of a solid rearguard.
Coach Henri Michel is a veteran of the African circuit. Formerly in charge of Tunisia, Morocco and his home country Cameroon, he has twice been dismissed after failure at Nation Cup finals and so will be eager to avoid completing an unwanted hat-trick. His experience is clear to see in the way Ivory Coast approach games, more pragmatic that free flowing, and the 58-year-old's wise head has proved a boon for the side.
Always a breeding ground for exciting talent, only now are the West Africans really fulfilling their potential. Expect the Elephants to have a tournament they won't want to forget in a hurry.
Goalkeepers: 23-Boubacar Barry (Beveren, Belgium), 16-Gerard Gnanhouan (Montpellier, France), 1-Jean-Jacques Tizie (Esperance, Tunisia)
Defenders: 3-Arthur Boka (Racing Strasbourg, France), 20-Guy Demel (Hamburg SV, Germany), 17-Cyrille Domoraud (Creteil, France), 21-Emmanuel Eboue (Arsenal, England), 6-Blaise Kossi Kouassi (Troyes, France), 12-Abdoulaye Meite (Olympique Marseille, France), 4-Kolo Toure (Arsenal, England), 13-Marc Zoro (Messina, Italy)
Midfielders: 2-Kanga Akale (AJ Auxerre), 7-Emerse Fae (Nantes, France), 22-Christian Koffi Ndri (Le Mans, France), 18-Siaka Tiene (St Etienne, France), 10-Gilles Yapi Yapo (Nantes, France), 19-Gneri Yaya Toure (Olympiakos Piraeus, Greece), 5-Didier Zokora (St Etienne, France)
Strikers: 15-Aruna Dindane (Racing Lens, France), 11-Didier Drogba (Chelsea, England), 8-Bonaventure Kalou (Paris St Germain, France), 9-Arouna Kone (PSV Eindhoven, Netherlands), 14-Bakary Kone (Nice, France)
Coach: Mohamed Fakhir
Captain: Talal El Karkouri
Nickname: The Atlas Lions
Cup record: Winners 1976; Qualified 12 times
One to watch: Marouane Chamakh
Morocco surprised many observers when a youthful side went all the way to the final in Tunisa before going down to the hosts in a thrilling denouement to the finals. However, their bid to repeat, or even better that achievement will be guided by a coach who has only been in the job for a few weeks.
Mohamed Fakhir was appointed after the shock departure of Frenchman Philippe Troussier - known as the 'white witchdoctor' after successes with Nigeria, South Africa and Burkina Faso - at the tail end of 2005, following a disagreement over his contract terms.
Though the timing was less than ideal, Morocco have a coach who has enjoyed considerable success in domestic football and led Royal Armed Forces to victory in the African Confederation Cup in November.
The Atlas Lions remain a force to be reckoned with in African football and though it would be a surprise to see them reach another final, it is not beyond them to finish above one of Egypt and Ivory Coast, should other results work in their favour.
Added motivation comes from the disappointment of having missed out on the 2006 World Cup finals despite being the only side to go through the whole campaign undefeated. Too many draws cost them top place in their group as they finished second again behind Tunisia after failing to beat their arch rivals in their final group match in Tunis.
Fakhir has already begun clearing out many of the regulars from the last two years and has brought a new look to the team, continuing a radical policy of change that started in the wake of Morocco's failure to qualify for the 2002 World Cup.
His 23-man squad for the finals sees the return of experienced players like Noureddine Naybet and Youssef Chippo and the introduction of untested locally-based players such as Hafid Abdessadek and Houcine Ouchela from his old club.
The strike force also includes Jawad Zairi and Yousef Hadji, who have lacked form and regular football in France's Ligue 1 but were two of the key players in Tunisia.
Yet the true star of the team, this time round as the last, is Bordeaux forward Marouane Chamakh. French-born, the rangy striker had to choose between the two nations when he got a call up to the French Under-19 squad. His heart ruled and the country of his family benefited. 10 league goals last season showed the 22-year-old's promise but he has been less prolific this term.
The squad that went to Tunisa was supposed to be a transitional one, designed to blood new talent, and they almost won the competition. Two years on and they should be even better, though the pace of change in their opponents may have outstripped them.
Goalkeepers: 12-Mustapha Chadili (Moghreb Tetouan), 1-Tarek Jarmouni (Royal Armed Forces), 22-Nadir Lamyaghri (Wydad Casablanca)
Defenders: 5-Talal El Karkouri (Charlton Athletic, England), 16-El Armine Erbate (Qatar SC, Qatar), 6-Noureddine Naybet (Tottenham Hotspur, England), 4-Abdeslam Ouaddou (Stade Rennes, France), 8-Houcine Ouchla (Royal Armed Forces), 2-Walid Regragui (Racing Santander, Spain)
Midfielders: 14-Hafid Abdessadek (Royal Armed Forces), 18-Youssef Chippo (Al Wakra, Qatar), 3-Noureddine Kacemi (Grenoble, France), 21-Badr El Kaddouri (Dynamo Kiev, Ukraine), 13-Houssine Kharja (AS Roma, Italy), 10-Mohamed Madihi (Wydad Casablanca), 15-Youssef Safri (Norwich City, England), 11-Mohamed Yaacoubi (Osasuna, Spain)
Forwards: 19-Hicham Aboucherouane (Lille, France), 23-Mohamed Armoumen (Kuwait SC, Kuwait), 9-Ali Boussabon (Feyenoord, Netherlands), 17-Marouane Chamakh (Girondins Bordeaux, France), 20-Youssef Hadji (Stade Rennes), 7-Jawad Zairi (Al Ittihad, Saudi Arabia).
Coach: Ilija Loncarevic
Captain: Tarek El Taib
Nickname: The Greens
Cup record: Runners up 1982; Qualified twice
One to watch: Tarek Tayeb
More famous for oil, international sanctions and the dictatorship of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, this is only the second time the side has appeared at the finals, going all the way to a runners-up spot in 1982 when they hosted the event.
Oil money has been invested in the development of the team and improvements have been witnessed in a squad that has little in the way of experience outside the limited domestic league.
Al-Saadi Gaddafi has not made the squad after a couple of inactive, if still controversial, seasons at Serie A clubs Perugia and then Udinese. A drug ban before his only league game underlined that his Italian job was more to do with PR than footballing prowess.
Libya will start their campaign without having won a match for a year and with a cloud hanging over Croatian coach Ilija Loncarevic.
Loncarevic, who was sacked in 2004 only to return to the job a year later, has done little to quell rumours that the same fate awaits him soon after a poor showing in a warm up match in Doha, but the well-traveled coach whose most high profile post was with Dinamo Zagreb in his homeland, is hamstrung by a weak squad.
Libya only qualified courtesy of being placed in Egypt's qualifying group; a fourth placed finish from a six team pool enough to book their ticket as the hosts were already guaranteed a place.
With little in the way of stars Tarek Tayeb, who, unusually, has enjoyed time with clubs outside his homeland with CS Sfaxien in Tunisa and now Gaziantepspor in Turkey where he is a mainstay of the side, stands out.
A predatory eye for goal he may have but the service he will receive in difficult looking games is likely to be sparse at best. The first plane home will already be ready and waiting.
Goalkeepers: 1-Samir Aboud (Al Ittihad), 12-Luis de Agustini (Liverpool, Uruguay), 21-Muftah Ghzalla (Al Ittihad)
Defenders: 5-Younes Shibani (Olympic), 4-Omar Daoud (JS Kabylie, Algeria), 22-Madi Al Fitori (Al Hilal), 18-Osama Hamadi, 17-Mahmoud Maklouf, 2-Walid Osman (all Al Ittihad), 13-Essam Ragab (Olympic), 3-Naji Shushan (Al Ittihad)
Midfielders: 8-Khaled Hussien (Al Nasr), 19-Abdelsalam Khamis (Olympic), 7-Jihad Muntasir (Treviso, Italy), 23-Abdelnasser Slil, 6-Marei Ramli (both Al Ittihad), 16-Nader Tarhuni (Al Siliya, Qatar), 14-Tarek Tayeb (Gaziantepspor, Turkey)
Strikers: 15-Nader Kara (Olympic), 11-Ahmed Masli (Al Ittihad), 10-Ahmed Saad (Al Ahli Tripoli), 20-Salem Rewani (Al Ittihad), 9-Ahmed Zuway (Al Ahli Benghazi)
Fixtures: (Kick-offs in GMT)
Egypt v Libya: Cairo International Stadium (1700)
Morocco v Ivory Coast: Cairo International Stadium (1200)
Libya v Ivory Coast: Cairo International Stadium (1515) Egypt v Morocco: Cairo International Stadium (1800)
Egypt v Ivory Coast: Cairo International Stadium (1700) Libya v Morocco: Cairo Military Academy Stadium (1700)