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By ESPN Staff
Jan 19, 2006

LuaLua determined to make up for 2004

CAIRO, Jan 19 (Reuters) - Congo striker Lomana LuaLua is determined to make up for a disappointing performance at the last African Nations Cup by helping his country through a tough opening round group at the tournament in Egypt.

The Portsmouth striker was sent off and suspended in Tunisia two years ago when the Democratic Republic of Congo lost all three opening round matches.

'Back home it gave me a name of being arrogant and bad tempered, which is not me,' LuaLua told Reuters in an interview on Thursday.

'That's not my style. Now I have a chance to show people that that was a mistake. I didn't go to Tunisia to spoil things. We had worked hard to get there. I can now hopefully make it up in this tournament.'

LuaLua says the Congolese team have returned to the final tournament in Egypt with renewed determination.

'Obviously, we are all here trying to win the African Nations, the best thing about it now is that anyone is capable of beating anyone,' he said.

'We've come here with a positive mindset and if we can win in our first game on Saturday against Togo then we can build it from there.'

LuaLua will lead the attack in Saturday's Group B opener against the World Cup finalists in Cairo but Roma striker Shabani Nonda, who had a recent knee operation, will not be alongside him.

'His absence affects me,' LuaLua said. 'We have a great partnership, and we were really hoping to play together in this tournament. We'll miss him a lot but it gives someone else in the team a chance to show what they can do.'

LuaLua said he hoped that fans at his English club would understand his desire to play at the Nations Cup despite Portsmouth lying in a precarious position in the Premier League.

'There are two major tournaments when you play for your country, the World Cup and this,' he said. 'If you ask any young English player or any player from any other country, they will tell you their ambition is to play for their country.

'This is the only chance we have to try and lift the country up. It hurts me to leave Portsmouth, we are not doing well.

'I stayed as long as I could got and go into trouble with Congo because I played for them last weekend, but it is now my ambition to help my country get back to what we used to me.

'We were the first black African country to play at the World Cup finals. I want to be part of bringing history back home. True fans will understand that.'