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Absences leave 2012 Africa Cup of Nations wide open

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Piers Edwards | 14:30 UK time, Friday, 20 January 2012

This month's Africa Cup of Nations is the most open tournament in years and as much about those that haven't made the finals in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon as about those who have.

The absence of defending champions Egypt, Cameroon and Nigeria means that the trophy will have a different name on it for the first time in 20 years - unless Tunisia win it, that is.

The Carthage Eagles, who lifted the trophy on home soil in 2004, are the only team at the finals to have won the competition since the early 1990s. In 1992, this year's favourites, Ivory Coast, beat Ghana in a final played in Senegal - and these three countries headline the leading acts at this month's tournament.

The Senegalese are the first in action, playing in Saturday's opening round of Group A matches, meaning that Newcastle United fans won't have to wait long to catch a first glimpse of their new number 9 - but whether the freescoring Papiss Demba Cisse starts against Zambia is open to question.

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