Egypt concede defeat in Nations Cup qualifying

CAIRO - Defending champions Egypt have conceded defeat in their bid to retain their stranglehold on the African Nations Cup title, electing to use a combination of their under-23 and under-20 teams to play their last two qualifying matches.

Egypt have two points from four matches in Group G and although they still have a slim mathematical chance of reaching the 2012 finals they have admitted they have no realistic hope.

Instead their Olympic team, coached by former Germany-based defender Hani Ramzy, will complete the team's last two fixtures in Sierra Leone next month and at home to Niger in October.

The youngsters will be captained by Ahmed Hassan, who continues his bid to become the world's most capped international. The 36-year-old midfielder has won 175 caps for Egypt, three shy of the 178-game record set by Saudi Arabia goalkeeper Mohammed Al Deayea between 1990 and 2006.

Egypt won an unprecedented third Nations Cup title in a row at the last finals in Angola in 2010. The north African country has a record seven continental titles, three more than Ghana and Cameroon, the next most successful countries.

Egypt's 2012 qualifying campaign started with a surprise home draw with Sierra Leone and an even bigger shock when they lost in Niger. South Africa, who top the group, beat them in Johannesburg in March and drew 0-0 in Cairo in June, after which long-standing coach Hassan Shehata was fired.

Ramzy, who won 125 caps himself, was not on a shortlist of possible replacements issued by the Egypt Football Association, who are to choose between recently fired U.S. coach Bob Bradley, Francisco Maturana of Colombia and Zoran Filipovic, the former Yugoslav striker and national coach of Montenegro.

The 2012 Nations Cup is being co-hosted by Equatorial Guinea and Gabon, starting on January 21.