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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Jan 21, 2008

Egypt begin defence of African Nations title

ACCRA, Jan 21 (Reuters) - Egypt begin the defence of their African Nations Cup title with a testing examination against long-standing rivals Cameroon in Kumasi on Tuesday.

Egypt return to the competition with the bulk of the team that won on home soil two years ago but there is concern over the quality of their defence and a hole in attack with injured Middlesbrough striker Mido missing the tournament.

Pitted against them is a Cameroon team likely to be fuelled by Samuel Eto'o's quest to break the tournament's goalscoring record.

The Barcelona striker is three goals shy of the 38-year-old mark of 14 held by Laurent Pokou of the Ivory Coast.

Sudan and Zambia play in the other Group C match at the refurbished stadium in Ghana's second city on Tuesday.

It is Sudan's first appearance at the finals in 32 years and, despite an impressive qualifying campaign, they are given little chance in the tournament.

Zambia coach Patrick Phiri said his side had a comprehensive build-up to the tournament, with warm-up matches in Spain, Tunisia and Morocco.

"We are the best prepared we have ever been for a tournament," he told Reuters.

But Zambia have key striker Chris Katongo and midfielder Isaac Chansa suspended for the opening game.

Cameroon and Egypt renew a rivalry that last played out in a 2006 World Cup qualifier when a draw in Yaounde cost the Indomitable Lions a place at the finals in Germany.

"We have a genuinely good chance of winning the tournament," said Cameroon coach Otto Pfister, yet to take charge of the side in a full international since taking over in November.

Eto'o is seen as key to their chances if he continues the strong club form he has shown for Barcelona since recovering from injury late last year. "On his day, I'd even say he's the best striker in the world," added Pfister.

The striker could benefit from a makeshift Egypt defence that has been forced to recall Ibahim Said even though he has been without club action for six months and played just one international since the Pharaohs won the title two years ago.

Egypt will be without suspended captain Ahmed Hassan for the opening game.

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