Records set to fall in Africa
Records are made to be broken, but the upcoming CAF Africa Cup of Nations will likely mark an unprecedented new set of milestones for the continental championship. Not only are the likes of hosts Ghana and Cameroon seeking to match Egypt's record of five continental titles, which they set in their own backyard two years ago, but a number of leading players are also set to make history.
Egypt captain Ahmed Hassan and his Cameroonian counterpart Rigobert Song are set to compete in a seventh Africa Cup of Nations finals tournament, which will tie the record set by Côte d'Ivoire goalkeeper Alain Gouamene in 2000 and matched by Hossam Hassan of Egypt two years ago. Song and Ahmed Hassan have been at each edition of the event since 1996, although the latter did not figure on the field in his debut trip to South Africa.
In Egypt two years ago, Song set an individual record of 27 matches in the competition, which he could extent to 33 if the Indomitable Lions make it all the way to the final on 10 February. Extraordinarily, the 32-year-old has played in every single one of Cameroon's matches at the finals since 1996, taking home two winners' medals in the process.
At the last Nations Cup finals in Egypt, the veteran defender also became the first African from a country south of the Sahara to join the FIFA Centenary Club for players with 100 or more international appearances. Hassan is also a two-time winner, scoring in the 1998 final and being named the best player of the 2006 event.
Le Roy assured, Eto'o hopeful
On the bench, Ghana coach Claude Le Roy will set new coaching landmarks, even before the tournament kicks off on 20 January, but his primary objective will be to ensure success for the host nation. The Frenchman will nonetheless extend the record he set two years ago for coaching at the most tournaments. Ghana 2008 will be the sixth time he has taken charge of a team in the finals.
Le Roy, who will turn 60 on 6 February, began his journey in 1986 with Cameroon, whom he led to glory two years later. In 1990 and 1992 he was coach of Senegal and in 2006 he took Congo DR to the quarter-finals. He has coached at 22 matches at the finals, one more than the Polish-born Henryk Kasperczak.
Ghana already hold the record for the most appearances in a final, but their record-setting seventh appearance in the deciding match came as far back as 1992. Egypt, meanwhile, will play in the finals for a 21st time, keeping up one of several records they hold. The Pharaohs have won an unparalleled 40 matches in an unparalleled 77 games at the finals. Their haul of 121 goals is also a record.
The individual goal-scoring mark in the Nations Cup is now 38 years old. A total of 14 goals were posted by Ivorian Laurent Pokou over the 1968 and 1970 tournaments although, with 11 to his name going into Ghana 2008, Cameroon's Samuel Eto'o will be hopeful of surpassing his mark.