Eto'o favored but Gyan could steal African award

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CAIRO (Reuters) -- Samuel Eto'o is favorite to be named African Footballer of the Year for a record fourth time but a sympathy vote could see Ghana's Asamoah Gyan snatch away the prize when it is awarded in Cairo on Monday.

Eto'o, Gyan and Ivory Coast captain Didier Drogba are the three nominees for the continent's top individual accolade, which is voted for by coaches and captains of Africa's 53 national teams.

Eto'o flew into Egypt on Sunday after weekend success in the Club World Cup with European champions Inter Milan, his latest achievement completing a year rich in club success for the Cameroon striker and strengthening his case as a deserving winner of the award.

Eto'o won the triple with Inter earlier in the year and scored for a second successive year in the UEFA Champions League final. On Saturday, he netted again against Africans TP Mazembe Englebert in the Club World Cup final in Abu Dhabi.

The 29-year-old forward also broke the record for the most African Nations Cup finals goals with his national side at the start of the year.

He could, though, be stymied for a second successive year, after being controversially pipped at the post by Drogba for the 2009 award.

This time Gyan poses a real threat, as much for his achievements at the World Cup as for a dramatic miss in the quarter-final against Uruguay in Johannesburg in July.

The 25-year squandered a last-minute penalty that could have made Ghana the first African side to reach a World Cup semi-final. The kick was awarded after his goal-bound effort had been handled on the line, denying Ghana a late win.

He did, however, net three vital goals in South Africa as Ghana reached the last eight and also proved the catalyst behind the progress of the injury-plagued Black Stars' unexpected progress to the Nations Cup final in Angola in January.

Gyan is a finalist for the first time. Eto'o won the award three years in a row from 2003 to 2005 and Drogba won in 2006 and 2009.