GROUP C: Watch out for the minnows


Egypt won the title on home soil two years ago, but they are known as not the best travelers and last won in west Africa 10 years ago when they triumphed 2-0 over Burkina Faso.

Recent form has been unconvincing as well. Since June 2007 they have drawn with Mauritania, Kuwait, Ivory Coast, Burundi, Angola and Libya, and lost 4-1 to Japan in Osaka.

Their opening match with Cameroon looks like a contender for match of the tournament, however, and may well decide who finishes top of the group.

The Indomitable Lions breezed through qualifying at a canter, scoring thumping wins over all of their opponents, though interestingly they too lost to Japan (2-0) in August.

But both should be wary of Sudan, a footballing nation on the rise at both club and country level. The experience of Al-Merreikh, who reached the CAF Confederation Cup final this year, and Al-Hilal, who went all the way to the CAF Champions League semifinals, will have improved the savvy of the national side as well.

The Sudanese finished top of their qualifying group which also included Tunisia and will be at their first finals since 1976. They may just fancy their chances of causing an upset against ‘old enemy’ Egypt, with whom they share more than just the Nile River, but also a shared past and identity.

Following their December win in their annual regional competition, the Cecefa Cup, they have lost 2-0 to Nigeria and succumbed 6-0 to Guinea, and will be hoping this is not an indication of their coming fortunes in west Africa.

South African fans won’t need reminding of the power of the Zambians, or their star striker Chris Katongo. Chipolopolo may not have many household names in Europe, but they do work extremely hard as a team and have been together as a unit for the past few years.

Their 2006 experiences, when they missed out on qualification for the semifinals, will hold them in good stead for this tournament.

THE FIXTURES22/1/08 - Egypt vs Cameroon 22/1/08 - Sudan vs Zambia 26/1/08 - Cameroon vs Zambia 26/1/08 - Egypt vs Sudan 30/1/08 - Egypt vs Zambia 30/1/08 - Cameroon vs Sudan