Egypt close in on third successive crown

LUANDA - Egypt's experience and all conquering form at the African Nations Cup make the holders overwhelming favourites against a youthful Ghana in Sunday's final in Luanda.

Egypt chase an unprecedented third successive title against a side given little chance at the start of the tournament, when a number of key players failed to make the trip to Angola.

But Ghana's youngsters have already shown a footballing maturity well beyond their years and stout defensive performances in their last two matches have seen Ghana reach the final for the first time in 18 years.

"It's unbelievable," said Asamoah Gyan, scorer of the winning goals in both the quarter-final triumph over hosts Angola and Thursday's semi-final victory over Nigeria.

"We are a young team and not many people gave us a chance of making the final."

Like Egypt, they play in a record eighth Nations Cup final.

Egypt have only ever lost once in a deciding match and have marched through their matches in Angola with clinical efficiency, highlighted by a 4-0 triumph over bitter rivals Algeria on Thursday.

Egypt have scored 14 goals in five successive wins, all in the coastal town of Benguela, as they first broke and then extended the record for unbeaten Nations Cup finals games to 18.

They move to the capital to play at Luanda's November 11th Stadium where Ghana have already had three matches, and where the pitch conditions have been much poorer than in Benguela.

It is likely Egypt will do most of the attacking, although there is doubt over the fitness of striker Emad Moteab. Officials told Reuters they excepted he would be ready for the final despite having to be replaced during the semi-final because of a hamstring injury.

Ghana coach Milovan Rajevac has sought to put out a team able to soak up pressure and looking to catch their opponents on the counter attack.

"I told my players we were going to play to reach the final and not to produce beautiful football, only the result matters, it's all about the result," the Serbian-born coach said.

Ghana lost first choice defenders John Paintsil and John Mensah to injury on the eve of the tournament, dropped key midfielder Sulley Muntari because of indiscipline and then saw captain Michael Essien have to limp out after just 45 minutes playing time in Angola after suffering a knee injury in training.

Sunday's final could mark the end of the international career of several of Egypt's golden generation, including captain Ahmed Hassan, who could become the first player to win four Nations Cup finals.

"We should return home with the trophy, we will do our best to achieve that aim," Hassan told reporters after Thursday's semi-final triumph.