2017 Africa Cup of Nations Countdown… 

Egypt will have to do without key defender Rami Rabia in the upcoming African Nations Cup finals after he suffered a training ground injury on Christmas Day.

He will be out for six weeks with an ankle injury, said a statement from Al Ahly.

It is expected to be a serious blow to coach Hector Cuper’s hopes for the Pharaohs at the tournament in Gabon, where they have a tough group with Ghana, Mali and Uganda.

Rabia had just returned from a serious knee injury that kept him out of action for a long spell.

He made two appearances after recovering from the knee injury – coming on as a late substitute in a 3-1 league win over Al Masry before playing the full 90 minutes against lower-tier Aluminum in the Egypt Cup last week.

Fellow Ahly defender Ahmed Hegazy, who usually partners Rabia in the heart of Egypt’s defence, resumed training on Sunday after recovering from a hamstring injury that sidelined him for a fortnight.

Zaha, Bailly in Cote d’Ivoire Squad

A cluster of Premier League stars including Eric Bailly and Wilfried Zaha was named on Wednesday in defending champions the Ivory Coast’s 24-player squad for the upcoming Africa Cup of Nations.

Crystal Palace winger Zaha features in the list released by the team’s French manager Michel Dussuyer despite playing two games for England.

But as those caps were both in friendlies the 24-year-old remains eligible to line up for the country of his birth.

He made it plain to the Ivorian Football Federation in November that he wanted to play for Ivory Coast rather than the Three Lions of England.

Missing from the squad for the tournament in Gabon starting on January 14 was the Elephant’s injured Chinese-based captain, Gervinho.

Paris Saint-Germain defender, Serge Aurier, and Stoke City forward, Wilfried Bony also figured.

The Ivory Coast warm up for the defence of their 2015 title with friendlies against Sweden and Uganda.

At the Nations Cup, Ivory Coast and Togo meet on January 16 in the opening Group C match followed by Democratic Republic of Congo and Morocoo.

 

Massa, Aucho Boost Cranes Camp

Uganda captain Geoffrey Massa and his Baroka FC teammate Khalid Aucho have commenced training with the rest of the Cranes squad as they prepare for the upcoming 2017 Afcon.

Massa, who turned out in Baroka’s 1-0 loss to African champions Mamelodi Sundowns last Thursday in Polokwane, and Aucho took part in the full training session. The duo arrived in Kampala last Friday but were given three days off, one more than the rest.

US-based midfielder Mike Azira, who plies his trade for the Colorado Rapids, arrived on Monday night and did only a third of the session before doing a recovery session on his own.

Uganda coach Milutin ‘Micho’ Sredojevic was visibly pleased with the arrival of the three professionals and said, “Azira is joining us from a different time zone and different climate so we tried to help him acclimatise to the training by doing 35 per cent, then recovery.”

“Massa and Aucho have also joined and are involved in the full training session. It is good to have the three players join us. We now have a squad of 24 players this week until Friday, when we reduce the squad by one goalkeeper and three players.”

Aucho praised his teammates’ work rate and said, “We found the mood in camp is very high. Everyone is working very hard to make the final 23-man squad that will go to Gabon. This is very important for us as a team to work together.”

Five players will join the squad over the weekend including goalkeeper Robert Odongkara, Farouk Miya, William Luwagga Kizito, Geoffrey ‘Baba’ Kizito and Moses Oloya.

 

Gabon Recall Sunderland’s Ndong

African Nations Cup hosts Gabon restored Sunderland midfielder Didier Ndong to their squad as they became the first country to name their final 23-man selection for next month’s finals.

Ndong was kicked out last month after skipping training ahead of the World Cup qualifier against Mali but was named on Tuesday to take part in the January 14 to February 5 tournament.

Gabon, who play the opening game against Guinea Bissau in Libreville, go into the finals having changed their coach.

Former Spain manager Jose Antonio Camacho signed earlier this month to replace ex-Portugal international Jorge Costa.

 

Tunisia Line Up Two Friendly Matches

Tunisia’s national football team started training on Sunday for the African Cup of Nations which is set to kick off in Gabon on January 14th.

The Carthage Eagles has lined up two friendly matches against the Catalonia and the Basque select sides in Spain.

They north African nation will then host Uganda which qualified for the tournament for the first time since 1978 on January 4th in Tunis. 

“We can say that they (local players) are fairly stable, they play regularly, I choose the best, but for foreign players, maybe it will change. Some have lost their places in the clubs, they are not always playing or they rarely play,” said Tunisian national football team coach Henryk Kasperczak.

The Tunisian team, which has had a successful run of ten matches without defeat, will play its final preparatory match against Egypt in Cairo on January 8, before flying out to Gabon on January 11.

The Carthage eagles is placed in Group B in the tournament and will play its first match against Senegal on January 15, before facing its north African neighbour Algeria on January 19th and later Zimbabwe on January 23, 2017.