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Time our enemy, admit new 2019 Africa Cup of Nations hosts Egypt

Dakar (AFP) – Egypt football boss Hany Abo Rida admitted Tuesday that his country faced a race against the clock to host the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations during June and July.

They scored a landslide 16-1 victory over sole rivals South Africa in a vote in Dakar to replace Cameroon, who were dropped as hosts due to preparation delays and security concerns.

The tournament kicks off on June 15 and Rido admitted to reporters in the Senegalese capital that having only six months to prepare was a major obstacle.  

“Our biggest challenge is time. There is a lot of work to do, but we can manage. I am not worried. We will do our best,” he said.

“When we last hosted the tournament in 2006 it was a big success. We had 16 competing nations then, now there are 24. I believe we will succeed.”

Security will be another challenge for the Egyptians, with three Vietnamese tourists killed in a recent terror attack in the north African country. 

“There are big plans for security,” insisted Confederation of African Football (CAF) executive committee member Rida. “I think we will have no problem.”

Acting chief executive of the South African Football Association Russell Paul told a Johannesburg radio stadion that he did not believe the Egyptian bid was better.

“We are disappointed but life goes on,” he said. “In the politics of football, anything is possible.” 

There was drama ahead of the midday announcement in Dakar that Egypt had won the right to host the competition a fifth time after 1959, 1974, 1986 and 2006.

Having voted, CAF said it would delay announcing the result until Wednesday so as not to deflect attention for their awards ceremony later Tuesday.

But fearful of the result being leaked, CAF president Ahmad Ahmad told reporters: “I am pleased to announce that Egypt will host the 2019 Cup of Nations.”

– Favourites –

“I want to thank the two countries — they came to the rescue of the CAF when we saw that the evolution of the work in Cameroon was not developed.”

Egypt entered the contest to host the Cup of Nations only when fellow north African country Morocco announced they would not bid.

Morocco were the media favourites to replace Cameroon and Egypt said they “did not want to compete against a fellow Arab nation”. 

Egypt boast many international-standard venues with the Cairo International Stadium (72,000) and Borg El Arab Stadium in Alexandria (87,000) boasting the largest capacities.

The choice of Egypt will make them favourites to win a record-extending eighth Cup of Nations title having finished runners-up to Cameroon in Libreville two years ago.

Egypt won three of the four previous tournaments they hosted, failing only in 1974 when they were beaten by Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo) in the semi-finals.

The star of the current team, Liverpool sharpshooter Mohamed Salah, is favourite to retain the African Player of the Year award in Dakar.

Hot, humid northern hemisphere summer weather will be a challenge for players in the first Cup of Nations to feature 24 teams, up from 16 in Gabon two years ago.

Djamel Belmadi, coach of qualifiers Algeria, said recently that he would prefer South Africa to host the tournament because of the southern hemisphere winter conditions there.

“It is almost impossible to play (in Egypt) given the heat and humidity,” he said. “The weather conditions in South Africa are more pleasant.” 

Egyptian football official Karam Kordy Abdel Fattah responded: “It would be better if Belmadi said he was afraid of the enthusiastic Egyptian supporters.”

Algeria, Egypt, Ghana, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal, Tunisia and Uganda have qualified for the 2019 tournament. 

The other 10 places will be filled after the final qualifiers between March 18 and 26.

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