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Egypt and Algeria face off again in fierce rivalry
By Samuel Petrequin
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 28 - 01 - 2010

After ending Egypt's hopes of reaching the World Cup for the first time since 1990, Algeria can now stop the Pharaohs in their bid to win a third straight African Cup of Nations in the latest edition of the teams' intense rivalry.
On Thursday, Algeria takes on Egypt in Benguela and Ghana plays Nigeria in Luanda in the African Cup semifinals.
Algeria, which last won the African Cup in 1990 and hasn't reached the final four since then, will play at the World Cup in South Africa in June instead of Egypt after a couple of playoffs that were marked by violence off the pitch.
Egyptian supporters had pelted a bus carrying the Algerian team with missiles in a group stage qualifier in Cairo, injuring three players. Fan violence after the deciding match in November at Sudan left more than 32 people injured.
While Algeria coach Rabah Saadane tried to downplay tensions ahead of Thursday's match by saying it would “only be about football,” Egypt striker Mohamed Zidan declared it would be about much more than that.
“It will be a matter of life and death in that game,” Zidan said. “For both sides, it will be like a war. For us, it is a chance to show the world that we deserve to go to the World Cup, and if we beat them we will be able to watch the World Cup with pride.”
Unbeaten in 17 matches at the African Cup, Egypt has won all four games at this event capped by a 3-1 extra-time win over Cameroon in the quarterfinals.
Without several of their top players including Amr Zaki and Mohamed Aboutrika but led by their emblematic captain Ahmed Hassan, the Egyptians have played attack-minded football and displayed impressive mental strength.
“We are the ones who do not have any pressure,” Zidan said. “We are the champions and we are better than them. Everybody will see which is the better team.”
After drawing much criticism following a 3-0 loss to Malawi in its opening match, Algeria has improved in each game to knock out star-studded, tournament favorite Ivory Coast in the quarterfinals.
Playing in the tournament for the first time since 2004, the Algerians looked to be heading out against Ivory Coast until late goals from Madjid Bougherra and substitute Hameur Bouazza secured a 3-2 win in extra time.
In the other semifinal between two World Cup-bound teams, Ghana is chasing its first African title since 1992 while Nigeria won the tournament for the last time two years later. As host in 2008, Ghana reached the semifinals by beating Nigeria.
With a squad deprived of many key members, Ghana coach Milevan Rajevac had to promote numerous young players.
Nigeria defender Onyekachi Apam is suspended and coach Shaibu Amodu said he will make several changes to his team.
“There will be a need to introduce fresh legs,” Amodu said.


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