old foes renew rivalry

BENGUELA - Today's two Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) semifinal matches see two great rivalries in African football being repeated.

BENGUELA - Today's two Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) semifinal matches see two great rivalries in African football being repeated.

In the day's early match, West African powerhouses Nigeria and Ghana face each other in the Angolan capital, Luanda, in the November 11 Stadium, while Algeria face Egypt in the Ombaka Stadium in Benguela in the later game.

The two losers of the semifinal matches will contest the third-place playoff in Benguela on Saturday, while the winners play the final in Luanda on Sunday.

The rivalry between Algeria and Egypt is unparalleled in African football and just more than two months ago drew worldwide attention when the countries faced each other in their final World Cup qualifier.

Several Algerian players were injured when stones were thrown at their team bus on the way to the hotel. Egypt won the game 2-0, forcing a playoff in Sudan, which Algeria won 1-0 to qualify for the World Cup finals. In the fighting that followed the game, 24 Egyptians were injured in Algeria.

Egyptian striker Mohamed Zidan said after his side had qualified for the semifinal with a 3-1 defeat of Cameroon that the game was unlike any other in the world.

"It is a matter of life and death," he said. "It is like a war for both teams, and for us, it is a chance to show that we are the better side and deserve to be at the World Cup."

While the rivalry in the other match fails to evoke the same intensity, it still sees two great African footballing nations face off.

Neither Ghana nor Nigeria have been particularly impressive in the tournament so far, and the Super Eagles needed a penalty shootout to advance 5-4 at the expense of Zambia.

Nigerian coach Shaibu Amodu, whose only hope of leading his side at the World Cup later this year is if he takes the team to the final, said he is not concerned about the World Cup in June and July.

"I am only concentrating on this tournament," he said. "Whatever happens after that, we will see, but now we want to do as well as we can here in Angola."

He will have to play against the Black Stars without Onyekachi Apam, who was sent off against Zambia.

Ghana coach Milovan Rajevic, meanwhile, is minus inspirational captain Michael Essien who is out for several weeks. He said he would not underestimate Nigeria even though they failed to impress in the quarterfinals.

"It will be a big mistake to conclude that they will repeat the same performance in the next game against Ghana."

Ghana hero Asamoah Gyan is fit to play today after returning to training yesterday from a thigh injury. - Sapa-DPA