Afcon Group D analysis: Ghana coach Avram Grant's job will be on the line in Gabon
It was just over a month ago that Egypt and Ghana were at each other’s throats in the World Cup qualifiers and they will be back at it when the African Cup of Nations finals gets underway in Gabon on Saturday.
The pair also share Group D at the tournament in Gabon where they will be the two favourites to go through.
But be wary of Mali and unsure about Uganda‚ making a return to the Nations Cup finals after an absence of almost four decades.
Egypt were 2-0 winners over Ghana in Alexandria in November to keep up a 100 percent start to their bid to qualify for Russia and leave the Black Stars’ hopes of a fourth successive World Cup finals appearance in some peril.
There was quite a lot of anger directed at coach Avram Grant‚ who made a heroic start to his reign as coach of Ghana when after just one month in charge he took them to the 2015 Nations Cup final.
But now the former Chelsea boss is under pressure and failure in Gabon could see his tenure in stark peril.
Ghana have Asamoah Gyan back for a sixth tournament and the Ayew brothers in attack‚ as well as Edwin Gyimah of Orlando Pirates as one of their back-up defenders.
Egypt have the crafty Argentine Hector Cuper as their coach‚ brought in essentially to take them to next year’s World Cup but also to get them back on track in the Nations Cup as well.
After winning three titles on the trot between 2006 and 2010‚ Egypt surprisingly missed out on three successive finals‚ as they blew it in qualifying.
They and South Africa were upset by Niger in qualifying for the 2012 finals and then flopped again twice more.
But the Pharaohs still have four players left from the 2010-winning squad and an exciting new-look about their side‚ led by the pace of Mohamed Salah from Serie A club Roma.
Ghana will also have bitter memories of Mali in recent Nations Cups.
They have lost twice to them in the third place play-off games in both 2012 and 2013.
Mali have Alain Giresse‚ the former French international‚ back in command of their side but many changes in playing personnel with‚ notably‚ Seydou Keita now retired.
Uganda are captained by Denis Onyango of Mamelodi Sundowns and have the Baroka FC pair of Khalid Aucho and Geoffrey Massa in their squad with ex Pirates coach Micho Srejedovich in charge.
There was much jubilation when the Cranes qualified to end 39 years without a place at the finals.
The last time they appeared in 1978 they finished runners-up but they will be ecstatic if they get past the group phase in this tournament.
The Group D matches are being played in Port Gentil‚ where the new stadium was opened last week.
- TMG Digital