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Page last updated at 14:19 GMT, Friday, 4 February 2011

Hosts Sudan to kick off CHAN

Caf officials hold the draw
The ticket for Niger, who will contest their first Caf finals in Sudan, appears at the draw for the African Nations Championship

The second edition of the African Nations Championship (Chan) opens in Sudan on Friday with a ringing endorsement from one non-competing country.

A tournament designed by the Confederation of African Football (Caf) for Africa-based players enjoyed its maiden outing in Ivory Coast two years ago.

And Rodney Michael, a board member of Sierra Leone's Premier League, has called it the 'best innovation' of Caf.

"Caf needs to ensure there is more sponsorship and money, because this is where the talents of Africa are spotted," Michael told BBC Sport.

"And the Chan is giving domestic players the incentive to compete. Our foreign-based players have the Nations Cup but our domestic players are more restricted.

The Congolese appear the best team because they have experienced footballers who did very well at the Club World Cup

Sudan coach Mohamed Abdallah

"With the exception of leagues in South Africa, Egypt, Tunisia, Ghana and Nigeria, 95% of domestic players in Africa are limited to one league and one cup competition - and the quality is not strong."

The 2011 edition opens in Khartoum on Friday afternoon when hosts Sudan take on Gabon in Group A, with Algeria and Uganda clashing on Saturday.

Group B also gets underway on Saturday, as Ghana face South Africa and Niger play Zimbabwe.

For the Nigeriens, the Chan is a special occasion as it marks the first senior Caf competition the West Africans have ever contested.

Defending champions DR Congo headline Omdurman-based Group C, meeting Cameroon on Sunday which is when 2009 hosts Ivory Coast entertain Mali.

The Congolese are heavily reliant on players from Fifa Club World Cup runners-up TP Mazembe, with 11 of the 23-man squad hailing from the Lubumbashi side.

The winning coach from 2009, Muntibile Santos, remains in charge but now faces a field that has doubled in size with 16 teams taking part - rather than the eight who competed first time around.

"The Congolese appear the best team because they have experienced footballers who did very well at the Club World Cup," says Sudan coach Mohamed Abdallah.

However, Abdallah's side can field a full strength team as they have no foreign-based stars.

Meanwhile, Senegal are the top Group D seeds on the back of reaching the semi-finals two years ago but must overcome Angola, who've been preparing in Brazil, as well as Tunisia and Rwanda.

Group winners and runners-up qualify for the quarter-finals at the first Caf tournament hosted by Sudan since 1970 when they maximised home advantage to lift the African Nations Cup.

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see also
CHAN 2011 results and fixtures
18 Jan 11 |  African
DR Congo name CHAN squad
25 Jan 11 |  African
CHAN hosts plot success
21 Jan 11 |  Africa horizontal
Sudan says CHAN will be a success
24 Jan 11 |  African
U17 stars make Rwanda CHAN squad
17 Jan 11 |  African
Caf plans to expand CHAN
28 Feb 09 |  African
DR Congo lift CHAN trophy
07 Mar 09 |  African

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