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Bright start
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 07 - 09 - 2006

Egypt's first 2008 Africa qualifying match with Burundi was a walk in the park, writes Abeer Anwar
It hardly mattered that this was the first qualifying game of the 2008 Africa Cup of Nations. The sudden death of star defender Mohamed Abdel-Wahab just two days earlier had turned the game into one of secondary importance.
Still, it had to be played and the Egyptians, wearing black armbands in remembrance of their teammate, trounced Burundi 4-1 in Cairo on Saturday, a win the players felt was for Abdel-Wahab as much as for qualifying to Ghana.
The game was also an attempt to make up for their failure to qualify for the 2006 World Cup. And also hoping to retain their Africa Cup of Nations title, Egypt got off to a flying start in the opening round of Group Two qualifying matches.
Recent call-up Mohamed Zidan of Werder Bremen, Hosni Abd-Rabou and Mohamed Abu Treika scored in the fifth, 29th and 39th minute.
In the second half, captain Ahmed Hassan converted a penalty. Burundi's sole consolation goal also came from the spot.
The memory of Abdel-Wahab still fresh, the Egyptians could not even bring themselves to smiling after scoring. "I am satisfied with the result especially that we are all suffering from the sudden death of our teammate Mohamed Abdel-Wahab," coach Hassan Shehata said.
Before the match, those in Cairo Stadium were asked to stand for a minute of silence in memory of the player, who died at age 23 Thursday morning, apparently of cardiac arrest, while training with Ahli.
Both players and coach agreed earlier that the proceeds from the match, plus bonus money for the win, would go to Abdel-Wahab's family.
In the same group, Mauritania powered by Botswana 4-0.
Goals from two of Nigeria's foreign-based stars helped the Super Eagles take a comfortable win over neighbours Niger in Abuja in Group 3 of the qualifiers. However, Uganda's 3-0 win over Lesotho earlier in the day means Nigeria are only second in the group after the opening round of matches.
Morocco took the early advantage in Group 12 of the qualifiers with a 2-0 win over Malawi in Rabat.
Eritrea collected an unexpected win against Kenya in Nairobi in the opening game of Group 6.
Midfielder Shiva Nzigou struck twice as Gabon got off to an emphatic start with a 4-0 win over Madagascar in Group One.
South Africa limped to a goalless draw with Congo in Johannesburg in the opening round of Group 11. Congo coach Noel Tosi described it as a "great result." South Africa caretaker coach Pitso Mosimane said his team "played well" but were simply unable to score.
The match was South Africa's first since it was announced that Brazilian legend Carlos Alberto Parreira will take over as coach in February in order to help prepare them for the 2010 World Cup, which the country will host.
Tanzania overcame Burkina Faso 2-1 in Group 7.
Angola beat Swaziland 2-0 in the opening match of their Group 6 qualifying campaign in Mbabane. In the Group 5 fixture, Cameroon's Indomitable Lions began their campaign with a 3-0 victory over Rwanda in Kigali on Sunday.
Hosts Ghana qualify automatically for the biennial showpiece and Ivory Coast had a bye after the withdrawal of Djibouti.
Senegal, another country with a new coach, gave Pole Henri Kasperczak maximum points with a 2-0 triumph in Group 7 over Mozambique, who contributed to their downfall in Dakar when Fernando Matola conceded an own goal.
Togo put their 2006 World Cup woes behind them at home to Benin, winning 2-1 in Lome. Guinea were held in Conakry by Algeria, a good Group 8 result for the struggling north African 'Desert Foxes', who failed to qualify for the 2006 Nations Cup.
Mauritius goalkeeper Orwin Castel saved a first-half penalty from Hamed Namouchi as depleted Tunisia had to settle for a point in a Group 4 match in Curepipe.
Angola comfortably dealt with Swaziland in Group 6 with 2006 World Cup defenders Joao 'Jamba' Pereira and Manuel 'Loco' Cange punishing sloppy defending after corners to score in Mbabane.
In Group 11, Zambia defeated Chad 2-0 in N'Djamena courtesy of early second-half goals from James Chamanga and Adubelo Phiri. Democratic Republic of Congo came from behind to edge Namibia 3-2 in Kinshasa while an early Dawit Meberahtu goal gave Ethiopia a 1-0 win over Libya in the other Group 10 fixture.
The 12 group winners plus the best three second-placed teams qualify for the finals, which will be staged from 20 January to 10 February 10, 2008, in Accra, Kumasi, Tamale and Sekondi.


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