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BENGUELA, Angola - Defending champions Egypt and Nigeria clash in the Africa Cup of Nations Group C curtain-raiser at the brand new Ombaka Stadium in Benguela today.
Kickoff is at 6pm.
Both teams are expected to progress to the knockout of stage of the continental showpiece at the expense of Mozambique and Benin in the sleepy town of Benguela, known for its bananas and great beaches, about 600km from the capital Luanda.
The Super Eagles of Nigeria are using Angola 2010 as a dress rehearsal for the World Cup, while six-time African champions Egypt again failed to qualify for the global finals after they were upset by fierce regional rivals Algeria in a tense playoff.
Egypt have not beaten Nigeria since 1977 and the last time both sides clashed at this competition was 16 years ago, when they drew 0-0 in a group match as Nigeria went on to win their second Afcon title in Tunisia.
"Egypt are in decline now and we have one of the best teams for a Nations Cup in a long time," boasted Nigeria assistant coach Daniel Amokachi, who played in that game in Tunis in 1994.
But Amokachi's teammate in that same game, Austin "Jay Jay" Okocha, has warned the Pharaohs have to be taken seriously.
"They are double champions for a reason and a skilful midfield could carry them to a hat-trick," Okocha warned.
Egypt are clear that this clash will go a long way in determining how well they will fare in their title defence in Angola.
"Our match against Nigeria will show how we will perform in the following matches, just like the 2008 tournament," said Egypt skipper Ahmed Hassan.
"Nigeria are a strong team, but we are now familiar with all African teams. I told the players they should do their best to realise their own dreams."
Nigeria coach Shuaibu Amodu might well be sacked if his charges do not reach at least the semifinals in Angola. - Sapa-AFP