From Eric Asomugha, Lusaka, Zambia.
As battle for places at the FIFA U-20 World Cup in South Korea gets under way on Sunday, Zambia will take on Guinea in the opener of the U-20 Africa Cup of Nations in an encounter that recalls past rivalries of the duo.
Since the introduction of a final tournament by CAF in 1991, which is played by eight teams, Zambia and Guinea have only met twice.
Sunday’s encounter will therefore be their third clash in the age-graded tournament.
In 1995 tournament hosted by Nigeria, Zambia and Guinea played a 2-2 draw. And both teams failed to qualify from their group, finishing third and fourth respectively.
Four years later in the finals staged in Ghana, Zambia thrashed Guinea 6-2 in their second ever meet. Zambia did qualify from the group but lost 3-1 to host Ghana in the semi-finals.
But this time around, Zambia as the hosts will hope to avenge that defeat and use it as spring board for a perfect outing.
Matches of the tournament are double-header in nature. Hence, Egypt and Mali take to the stage after the opening match.
It will be the sixth encounter in the tournament’s history. Both met twice in 1989 before the introduction of a final tournament with Egypt losing 0-2 to Mali in the first leg in Bamako before retaliating in the second leg in Cairo to qualify to the next stage.
In 2003 tournament hosted by Burkina Faso, Egypt defeated Mali 1-0 in the semi-finals. In 2011, Mali beat Egypt 1-0 in the group stage. Egyptians took revenge to upset Mali 1-0 in the semi-finals of that tournament hosted in Johannesburg, South Africa.