A disastrous Group G start last month saw the Pharaohs of Egypt lose 2-0 away to Senegal and 1-0 at home to Tunisia, leaving them bottom of the table, six points adrift of the front-runners. Botswana are equally desperate for maximum points at the National Stadium having lost 2-1 away toTunisia and 2-0 at home to Senegal.
Egypt won three consecutive Cup of Nations titles between 2006 and 2010 but then failed to qualify for the 2012 and 2013 tournaments. Coach Hassan Shehata, mastermind of the title hat-trick, quit after the 2012 exit and American Bob Bradley was in charge for the 2013 campaign.
Shawky Gharib, assistant to Shehata and Bradley, was promoted and his pre-qualifiers promise that Egypt would regain the title seems extraordinarily optimistic.
Egyptian football officials have warned the former national team midfielder, that he will be replaced if the country suffers a third consecutive qualifying disappointment
Gharib suffered a late blow when one of seven overseas-based players in a 25-man squad, Hull City wing-back Ahmed Elmohamady, withdrew injured. Egypt are a team in transition and Gharib has not found a new ‘spine’ to replace retired defender Wael Gomaa and midfielder Mohamed Abou Trika and injured striker Mohamed ‘Gedo’ Nagy.
Defending champions Nigeria visit Sudan on Saturday desperate for a first Group A win after a shock home loss to Congo and an uninspiring away draw with South Africa. Coach Stephen Keshi recalled Victor Moses only for the in-form Stoke City midfielder to withdraw because of a thigh injury.
Out-of-contract Keshi, who is continuing at the request of the sports minister, has also had to contend with an outburst from Emmanuel Emenike. The Turkey-based striker was angered by public criticism from the coach, who claimed Emenike lacked respect for fellow Super Eagles. “I am honoured to play for Nigeria and respect the coach, f he feels I will not help achieve results or harmony, he can omit me,” said Emenike.