Egypt's Pharaohs could lose African crown

Egypt's players line up ahead of winning the 2010 Nations Cup final
Will Sunday's match mark the end of an era for the most successful side in Africa Cup of Nations history?

This weekend's race to the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon could produce two qualifiers.

Both Ivory Coast and Senegal can reach next January's finals, although results elsewhere would have to go their way.

But the biggest story could come with the elimination of champions Egypt, who have won the last three Nations Cups.

If the Pharaohs lose at home to South Africa and Niger win in Sierra Leone, even second place in Group G will be beyond Hassan Shehata's side.

The continent's most successful Nations Cup team, with the Egyptians boasting a record seven titles, have yet to win a game in the group.

They prop up Group G with just one point from three games, six behind leaders South Africa, and anything other than victory in Cairo on Sunday will leave them out of the running.

That would signify the end of an era and the probable dismissal of Shehata, the Nations Cup's most successful coach, as well as mark Egypt's first absence from the finals since 1982.

The match at Cairo's Military Academy Stadium, moved to a smaller capacity venue in the wake of increasing crowd violence at league games across Egypt in recent months, is one of 21 qualifiers across the continent this weekend.

Another major footballing nation - four-time African champions Cameroon - also need to avoid defeat if they are to maintain a realistic chance of qualifying for the finals.

The Indomitable Lions trail visitors Senegal by five points, and will be without midfielder Alex Song for Saturday's match in Yaounde.

Their defence will need to be alert as Senegal's Mamadou Niang, Moussa Sow and Papiss Demba Cisse arrive off the back of successful European seasons.

Niang's Fenerbahce won the Turkish title, Sow celebrates a French league and cup double with Lille while Cisse scored 22 goals for Freiburg in Germany's Bundesliga.

Senegal, who missed the last two tournaments after finishing fourth in 2006, will qualify this weekend if they triumph in Cameroon and Mauritius prevent DR Congo winning on the Indian Ocean island.

Ivory Coast can also qualify, but only if they win in Benin on Sunday and Rwanda fail to pick up maximum points in Burundi.

Elsewhere, Nigeria, who trail Group B pacesetters Guinea by a point, aim to continue its revival under coach Samson Siasia away in Ethiopia.

Minnows Botswana will seal top spot in five-team Group K if they beat Malawi, adding to its historic achievement of reaching a first-ever African Cup of Nations finals.

Botswana is the only team to have qualified so far, and two teams will qualify from Group K where Malawi, Tunisia and Togo lead the chasing pack.

And perhaps the weekend's most heated fixture will come in Marrakech where Morocco host North African rivals Algeria.

The pair are in the bottom half of Group D, trailing Central African Republic and Tanzania, although all four teams boast four points at present.

For the remaining groups, the two best second-place teams will join 12 automatic qualifiers and co-hosts Gabon and Equatorial Guinea at the 2012 finals.

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