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African Cup of Nations Preview – Group C

January 10, 2010

Group C has two clear favourites and two definite underdogs – but will it turn out that way? Again, some familiar names in the Egpyt and Nigeria sides for British fans to watch, and no doubt some previously unknown talent will be unearthed somewhere along the way.

GROUP C

EGYPT // NIGERIA // MOZAMBIQUE // BENIN


Emad Moteab could have a key role to play for Egpyt

EGYPT

The winner of the last two tournaments has been severely weakened by injuries and has slipped down to fifth favourites with the bookies behind Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Ghana and Group C opponents Nigeria.

The Pharaohs have lost several star players to injury, including Mohamed Aboutrika (the ‘Egyptian Zidane’) and the former AWOL Wigan striker Amr Zaki. The lazy and controversial former Spurs and Boro striker Mido was widely tipped to replace Zaki but veteran coach Hassan Shehata decided to play it safe and leave him out altogether. So can the players Shehata has selected make it three in a row?

Their hopes will rest on the form of striker Emad Moteab who has scored 28 goals in 54 internationals. A quarter-final place is probable but, having failed to qualify for the World Cup and with so many key players missing, anything more would be a surprise, particularly if they have to overcome Cameroon for a place in the semis. Amazingly, captain Ahmed Hassan is playing in his eighth Cup of Nations and has won an astonishing 166 caps.

Videprinter prediction: Quarter-finals

NIGERIA

It’s hard to believe, when you consider all the great names who have pulled on the green shirt in the last twenty years, that the last time the Super Eagles won this tournament was in 1994 and their only other victory was in 1980. Always there or thereabouts since (apart from when they withdrew in 1994 and were disqualified for doing so in 1996), Nigeria are the nearly-men of the Cup of Nations.

Chelsea's John Obi Mikel is the heartbeat of the Nigeria midfield

This year, with the likes of Chelsea’s John Obi Mikel, the Everton pair of Joseph Yobo and Aiyegbeni Yakubu, and ex-Newcastle striker Obafemi Martins, many are tipping them to go all the way despite the fact that they look weaker than their main rivals on paper. Up against a depleted Egypt, they should win Group C and would then be favourites to beat likely opponents Gabon in the quarter-finals.

After that, it’s anyone’s guess how Shaibu Amodu’s side will do, but one thing is certain: the Super Eagles’ powerful brand of pacy, attacking football will be hard for anyone to contain if they get up a head of steam.

Videprinter prediction: Semi-finals

Dario is Mozambique's all-time top scorer

MOZAMBIQUE

Faced with two giants of African football, qualification for the quarter-finals would be a massive achievement for The Mamba, who are taking part in just their fourth Cup of Nations and have never progressed to the knockout stage. Dutch coach Mart Nooij will be hoping for great things from his strikers, the wonderfully named captain Tico-Tico and Dário, Mozambique’s record goalscorer.

Panathanikos’ 21-year old defender Simão is quietly impressing a number of top clubs with his assured performances in European competition, and his contribution will also be crucial.

Videprinter prediction: Group-stage exit.

Midfielder Stéphane Sessegnon plays his league football in France

BENIN

Benin are appearing in their third Cup of Nations and their ranks include Plymouth Argyle’s Réda Johnson and Romuald Boco of Sligo Rovers. As a result, things might not be so easy against the big names of Nigeria and Egypt.

The Squirrels do, however, have several players based in France’s Ligue 1 and are coached by Frenchman Michel Dussuyer, so expect plenty of Gallic flair. In particular, watch out for the silky skills of Paris St Germain’s Stéphane Sessegnon.

Videprinter prediction: Group-stage exit.

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