It is an interesting mix of sides that have gathered to determine the African title, split into a new and old order.

The new guard consists of teams like Angola, Cote d'Ivoire and Togo who upset the established pecking order to qualify in recent months for the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany™.

Then there are those who have been recently vanquished, like Cameroon, Nigeria, Senegal and South Africa, knocked off their lofty perch and who will be watching from the sidelines when the FIFA World Cup finals kick off in June.

But while they might have had their wings clipped and egos dented, there is an air of vengeance pervading the build-up to the tournament.

On the eve of the kick off, Senegal's El Hadji Diouf put it best in telling "A lion is never dead, it is only wounded. And a wounded lion is very dangerous."

Senegal's Lions of Teranga are one of the favourites to launch a credible fight back to restore a tarnished reputation. After finishing behind Togo in the Germany 2006 qualifiers, Diouf says the CAN is the proper forum to quickly re-establish Senegal's pre-eminent position among the continent's football elite.

The same goes for countries like Cameroon and Nigeria, equally determined to prove that their sudden fall from grace is no changing of the guard, but rather a mere anomaly.

Hosts Egypt, Cameroon and Ghana go into the tournament with record breaking on their mind, too.

The trio all share the distinction of four African titles and if any get on the winners' podium on 10 February, another new landmark will be set for the tournament. 

Already there are other distinctions. French-born boss Claude Le Roy is competing at his fifth Nations Cup as a coach, a new achievement. "This is something I find very satisfying," he said. "I like these kind of things."

He was a winner with Cameroon in 1988 and runner-up 20 years ago when Egypt last hosted the tournament. With Senegal in 1990 he reached the semi-finals and quarter-finals in 1992. In Egypt, he returns at the helm of the Simbas of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Egypt's veteran strike Hossam Hassan, at 39, equals the record for the most number of tournament appearances. This will be his seventh instalment of the competition, a distinction previously only held by the Ivorian goalkeeper Alain Gouamene.

Both Hassan and 'Jay-Jay' Okocha of Nigeria can also break Gouamene's record for the most number of matches at the tournament.

Hassan has been brought back as a 'father figure', according to coach Hassan Shehata, in a squad where the pressure of expectation is proving a heavy burden.

Shehata says: "He has the kind of wining mentality that will be good for our group."

Okocha has announced he will play his last Nations Cup tournament, thereby passing the baton onto the likes of Obafemi Martins and John Obi Mikel, two exciting talents waiting to take centre stage at the tournament.

Of the 16 countries only Libya and Zimbabwe have limited CAN experience. The Libyans last competed 24 years ago when they hosted the event in 1982.

For Zimbabwe it is their second appearance as well, but in successive editions after making their Nations Cup debut in Tunisia two years ago where they proved a competitive outfit.

This time, though, they have landed in arguably the tournament's toughest group - along with Nigeria, Senegal and Germany 2006 debutants Ghana.