Dates set for 2006 African Nations Cup finals
JOHANNESBURG, Jan 5 (Reuters) - Next year's African Nations Cup finals in Egypt will be played from January 20 to February 10, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) have announced.
Both the opening match and the final will be played at Cairo's National stadium, currently closed for renovations. It has a capacity of 80,000.
The other venues for the bi-annual continental championship have yet to be announced but are expected to be Alexandra, Port Said and Aswan, according to CAF officials.
The dates are again expected to cause a storm of controversy with club managers in Europe, who will be forced to give up players to compete in the event during the European league season.
The last Nations Cup tournament in Tunisia fell on almost the same dates in 2004 and the controversy over the release of European-based players for the tournament dominated the build-up to the event.
CAF president Issa Hayatou has refused previous calls to move the tournament to a date in the European off-season even though the vast majority of players who participate at the Nations Cup finals now come from clubs in Europe.
The draw for the 2006 finals will be held in Cairo on October 20 this year, a fortnight after the qualifying competition ends.
The qualifiers for the 2006 Nations Cup finals have been combined with those for the 2006 World Cup finals in Germany and resume again in March, having reached the halfway stage.
The winner of each of the five qualifying groups goes to the World Cup finals while the top three teams in each group qualify for the Nations Cup finals.
As Egypt qualify automatically as hosts, the first three teams excluding the Egyptians go through from their group.