Posted: Monday January 28, 2013 9:36 AM

Ethiopia likely to miss top players in key match

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RUSTENBURG, South Africa (AP) -Ethiopia's chances at the African Cup of Nations have taken a hit with the team's two top players expected to miss the decisive Group C match against Nigeria on Tuesday.

Ethiopia coach Sewnet Bishaw said Monday that midfielders Asrat Megersa and Adane Girma may not recover from the injuries they sustained in the first half of the team's match against Burkina Faso.

Ethiopia is last in the group but will still have a chance of advancing if it beats Nigeria in Rustenburg.

In its first tournament appearance in more than 30 years, Ethiopia earned a surprising 1-1 draw with defending champion Zambia in the opener, then fell 4-0 to Burkina Faso after Asrat's and Adane's injuries.

"Two very important players were out and I'm afraid that they are not coming back,'' Bishaw said. "Adane and Asrat are not in a good position right now. It will be up to the doctor's decision before the match.''

Adane, who scored against Zambia for the team's first African Cup goal in 37 years, left Friday's match against Burkina Faso with a muscle injury in his right leg. Asrat had to leave the match just before halftime because of a right knee injury.

Neither player has been able to practice since the match at Mbombela Stadium and they are both undergoing intensive treatment. Bishaw said Asrat's injury appears the more serious one and that he may have to be sidelined for up to 20 days.

Bishaw said losing the players early against Burkina Faso played a big part in the team's 4-0 loss.

"We were dominating in the beginning and missed several opportunities and then our most important players get injured and go out. Our game was totally destroyed,'' Bishaw said.

Ethiopia won the Cup of Nations in 1962 but last qualified for the final tournament in 1982. Players were promised more than $100,000 each if they win the competition in 2013.

The team arrived with few expectations, just hoping to gain experience, but the surprising draw against Zambia in the opener raised the team's hopes of advancing to the second round.

"This is already a new chapter for this generation, playing after 31 years and scoring our first goal in 37 years,'' Bishaw said. "We will be trying to make it to the quarterfinals, make history and make our people very happy. Our mission is to play football and to show Africa and the rest of the world that Ethiopia can play football.''

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