2017 Africa Cup of Nations Countdown…. El Hadary Set for Nations Cup 

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History

Veteran goalkeeper Essam El Hadary has been included in Egypt’s final 23-man squad for the Africa Cup of Nations.

El Hadary turns 43 this month and could become the oldest player in Nations Cup history, beating the 2006 record of 39-year-old compatriot Hossam Hassan.

Coach Hector Cuper trimmed four players from his provisional list.

Al Masry defender Hamada Tolba and midfielder Ahmed Gomaa, Zamalek midfielder Mohamed Ibrahim and Ismaili goalkeeper Mohamed Awad were dropped. Last month, Cuper sprang a surprise by omitting Zamalek striker Bassem Morsi, who had been in the starting line-up for Egypt in their last two World Cup qualifiers in October and November.

Only four of the squad remain from Egypt’s last participation in the finals, when they won the title for the third time in a row in 2010. They are El Hadary, Ahmed Elmohamady, Mohamed Abdelshafi and Ahmed Fathi.

Egypt, who have missed out on the last three Nations Cup tournaments, play in Group D in Port Gentil and open their campaign on 17 January against Mali.

The tournament in Gabon runs from 14 January to 5 February.

 

Broos Unveils Lions’ Depleted Squad

Cameroon coach Hugo Broos on Thursday unveiled a 23-man squad for this month’s Africa Cup of Nations tournament without several key players.

Seven players including Liverpool defender Joël Matip and Schalke 04 striker Eric Choupo-Moting had already declined to take part in the tournament.

Defender Aurélien Chedjou, who plays for Turkish club Galatasary, and was not selected for the squad which includes just two local players.

Cameroon began a training camp in Yaounde on Tuesday and will play a friendly against the Democratic Republic of Congo on Thursday.

The former four-time champions are drawn in Group A in the January 14 to February 5 tournament alongside hosts Gabon, Burkina Faso and Guinea-Bissau.

 

Mood in Gabon Gloomy Ahead of Afcon

With just days to go before Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s Gabon begin their quest to win the Africa Cup of Nations on home soil, the mood in the host nation remains gloomy.

While the final touches are being put on the four stadiums due to host matches in the January 14-February 5 tournament, the small central African state remains in the midst of a social and political crisis.

On the streets of the capital Libreville, decorated with banners advertising the upcoming continental tournament, workmen have been busy applying a final lick of white paint to the edges of pavements.

In the other host cities of Oyem in the north, Franceville in the south-east and Port-Gentil, the country’s oil capital, final adjustments are still being made around the stadiums.

But the atmosphere on the streets is yet to pick up and the mood around the end-of-year celebrations in Gabon was somewhat moribund at a time when the country is struggling with a severe economic crisis caused by the collapse of the price of oil. Oil is the main source of revenue in the country of 1.8 million people and with a large number of economic migrants from the likes of Senegal, Burkina Faso and Cameroon.

“Libreville, Port-Gentil, Franceville and Oyem have lost their reputations as energetic, teeming cities of party animals,” stated an opinion piece in the national daily L’Union on Wednesday.

President Ali Bongo Ondimba’s re-election in August, which was validated by the constitutional court, is contested by the opposition and the European Union and led to deadly unrest in the country. In his New Year message to the nation, Bongo accepted the difficulties currently faced by many in the country.

“Many of our compatriots have been badly affected by the fall-out from the world economic crisis. Many jobs have been lost in the oil industry in particular,” he said.

 

Boycott Calls

In recent months there have been continual calls for strike action, notably in public sector jobs, amid demands for social as well as political change.

Close to six months have passed since the presidential election, but opposition leader Jean Ping continues to declare himself the rightful winner and has called on the people of Gabon to resist against “the dictatorship”.

Opposition newspapers have made regular calls to boycott the Cup of Nations, which gets underway when Gabon face debutants Guinea-Bissau on January 14, or to use the tournament as a soundbox for their ideas.

Still traumatised by the post-election violence, some in Gabon are dreading the prospect of incidents around matches, notably in the traditionally rebellious city of Port-Gentil and in Oyem. The head of state has tried to calm the tensions by reiterating his promise to open political dialogue “the day after the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations ends,” but Ping has so far rejected this.

Bongo described 2016 as “a difficult year due to an election campaign marred by hatred and by a post-election situation that saw tension rise to unacceptable levels for our people.”

A big football fan, Bongo is hoping the Cup of Nations – CAN to give it its acronym in French – can bring a period of calm.

“These should be moments of joy, of coming together and of shared joy,” he insisted.

A Gabon squad led by the prolific Borussia Dortmund striker Aubameyang and also featuring the likes of Juventus midfielder Mario Lemina and Didier Ndong of English Premier League side Sunderland are dreaming of winning the trophy for the first time.

But the locals are yet to be completely won over by the prospect of following The Panthers, who are also in a group with Burkina Faso and illustrious neighbours Cameroon.

“Our minds are not on football,” admitted unemployed Libreville resident Stephane Mba.

 

 Micho Releases Final Afcon Squad

Uganda Cranes coach Milutin ‘Micho’ Sredojevic has revealed his final 23-man list that will compete at the upcoming Afcon 2017 set for January 14 to February 5in Gabon.

Fufa Male Player of the Year Muhammad Shaban, 18, has been given an opportunity to replicate his league heroics at the biggest stage of African football.

The Onduparaka striker has not hidden his delight and told supersport.com that, “I am very excited to be on the team that will compete at Afcon. I look forward to giving my best. This is a dream come true.”

Shaban is one of the young upcoming youngsters alongside KCCA central defender Timothy Awany who are being groomed for the future.

Kenyan-based Shafik Batambuze earned his first call-up to the Cranes set-up following a convincing performance in training in the past three weeks and in the friendly against Tunisia on Wednesday.

The Serbian tactician included only four locally based players, including the KCCA trio of Geoffrey Sserunkuma, Joseph Ochaya and Awany as well as Shaban (Onduparaka).

He dropped goalkeeper Benjamin Ochan who just renewed his contract at KCCA, Edrisa Lubega (Proline) and KCCA’s Muzamir Mutyaba who ply their trade in the Uganda Premier League.

The Cranes depart Tunis on Thursday to Dubai where they will hold an eight-day camp and will face Slovakia on January 8 and Cote d’Ivoire on January 11 in friendly matches in Abu Dhabi. Uganda will open their campaign against Afcon 2015 finalists Ghana on January 17 before facing Egypt four days later at Stade de Port Gentil. They will complete their Group D matches against Mali on January 25 at Stade d’Oyem.

 

 Abdennour, Khazri Lead Tunisia Challenge

Tunisia named their 23-man squad for the Africa Cup of Nations on Wednesday with Europe-based stars Aymen Abdennour, Wahbi Khazri and Naim Sliti poised to be the key men at the January 14-February 5 tournament in Gabon.

Coach Henryk Kasperczak, who was also in charge of The Carthage Eagles at the 1996 finals, trimmed his squad from 41 players.

Tunisia open their campaign in Group B against Senegal on January 15 before taking on Algeria and Zimbabwe.

 

 Bouhaddouz, a Late Replacement for Morocco

Striker Aziz Bouhaddouz was named in Morocco’s final 23-man squad on Wednesday for this month’ African Nations Cup finals after being belatedly brought in to replace the injured Younes Belhanda and Oussama Tannane.

Belhanda broke his toe last month playing for Ligue 1 leaders Nice while Tannane suffered a thigh muscle injury training with the squad in Abu Dhabi last week.

Bouhaddouz, who has won two caps and plays for German second division club St Pauli, comes in as a late replacement, the Morocco Football Federation announced.

Morocco, who won the African championship in 1976, play in Group C at the finals in Gabon, starting against the Democratic Republic of Congo in Oyem on January 16.