NORTH AFRICA’S CONTINENTAL CHAMPIONS
Egypt: 1957, 1959, 1986, 1998, 2006, 2008, 2010
DURBAN - With the success of sides such as Cape Verde and Togo in reaching the last eight of the Africa Cup of Nations for the first time, one major omission from the business end of the tournament may have been easily overlooked - the absence of North Africans.
The distance between the north and south of the continent has never seemed greater, as Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria were all forced to take the long journey home from South Africa early, after falling at the first hurdle.Added to seven-time champions Egypt and three-time finalists Libya’s failure to qualify and it marks the first time since 1992 that there will be no North African presence in the quarter-finals.It is a low point for a region more accustomed to dominating the continental scene, after producing four consecutive title wins in a row - Tunisia in 2004 and Egypt’s three in a row between 2006 and 2010.
Algeria finished bottom of Group D, behind neighbours Tunisia, after claiming just a point from three games with Ivory Coast, Togo and the Carthage Eagles.
The Tunisians fared slightly better, after a fortuitous win over the Desert Foxes, defeat to group winners Ivory Coast and a draw with the Togolese - who edged them out of second spot.
Morocco, meanwhile, exited the tournament unbeaten, but three draws were not enough as they finished third in Group A, behind hosts South Africa and debutants and tournament headline-grabbers, the Cape Verdeans.
The Atlas Lions, who host the next Nations Cup in 2015 played down their early exit, with coach Rachid Taoussi claiming it may have come too soon for his young squad, after he opted to omit some experienced internationals, such as Adel Taarabt and former captain Houssine Kharja, for this tournament.
“Our priority has always been the 2014 World Cup qualifiers and the 2015 Cup of Nations, where I am confident this group of players will do well,” Taoussi said.
Matters look far more serious for neighbours Algeria, however, who were the first team to be eliminated from this year’s finals, after defeats to the Tunisians and Togo - having dominated both games for long periods.