The 32nd edition of Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) will kick off on Friday as host nation Egypt lock horns with the Warriors of Zimbabwe at the Cairo International Stadium. Both teams are in group A alongside Uganda and DR Congo.
The Pharaohs will be desperate to keep their impeccable record at the biennial tournament whenever they are the host nation after winning it the last time they hosted.
Egypt will be featuring in the tournament for the 23rd time and having won the trophy seven titles, they remain the most successful team in the history of the competition while Zimbabwe will be playing in this competition for the fourth time.
Ahead of the mouthwatering clash, DailyAdvent xtray’s five things to expect from the game.
One of the most anticipated highlights for fans will be the individual brilliance of Mohamed Salah who plies his football trade with English Premier League side Liverpool.
The former Roma forward recently won the UEFA Champions League with the Merseyside reds with a handful contribution to the team’s success from the Egyptian wizard. He scored the first goal from the spot after his fellow African brother Sadio Mane won the penalty kick for Liverpool in the opening minute of the game.
Salah took Egypt to final of the last edition but was unlucky to bring home the 88th title after Vincent Aboubakar’s late winner hunt the Pharaohs.
Egypt first game against The Warriors is one of their important games in this competition and all eyes will be on Liverpool’s forward to deliver all three points for the Pharaohs once again just as many as 90,000 fans in the Borg el Arab Stadium erupted in November 2017 when his last minute penalty against Congo sent Egypt to the World Cup.
The best player in the Zimbabwean camp is Lokeren’s Knowledge Musona who also doubles as the captain of the team after making his debut in 2010 against South Africa.
Musona record in the Zimbabwe national team setup is second to none in the group, scoring 22 goals in 34 appearances which shows a stunning goal ratio of 0.65.
Egypt are a familiar face for the former Kaizer Chiefs striker, after scoring in both games he played against them. He will be one of the star players to watch in the game and his input will be one of the things fans will be looking for.
Egypt to win:
Yes, we all expect the Pharaohs to take home all three points in this encounter as they are obviously the favourite to win. Not only for the fact that they are favourite, Egypt also boast of a stunning head to head record against the Warriors. Winning their last two games against them both home and away.
In recent AFCON competition which the Pharaohs featured, they’ve kept a good record of winning their opening game and they will want that to continue against Zimbabweans on Friday.
A new face in Egypt goal:
For the first time in Egypt’s last four AFCON tournaments, the Pharaohs will have a new face in goal. After the world cup, the legendary Essam Kamal Tawfiq El Hadary announced his international retirement at the age of 45, having made 159 international appearances for Egypt winning four AFCON titles.
Mohamed El Shenawy is expected to be the new face in Egypt’s goal after a wonderful performance at the World Cup last year.
In May 2018, he was named in Egypt’s preliminary squad for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia. He played in warm up friendly matches against Colombia and Belgium prior to the tournament and was chosen as the starting goalkeeper for their opening match of the tournament against Uruguay, winning only his fourth cap, ahead of Essam El-Hadary and club teammate Ekramy.
He was named Man of the Match in the first match after making several saves during a 1–0 defeat. However, he declined to accept the award in the players’ tunnel after the match due to its sponsorship by Budweiser and was only photographed with the award. As a Muslim, El Shenawy is forbidden from drinking alcohol.
Teammate Ekramy and Egyptian team director Ihab Leheta later attempted to persuade him to accept the award as a “historic” prize but he again refused. He retained his place for Egypt’s second group match as they were eliminated after suffering a 3–1 defeat to hosts Russia.
The electrifying atmosphere from Cairo fans:
The North Africans are known to be ardent football lovers which has shown in their various leagues and the CAF Champions League especially when they are playing at home.
During the qualifiers, Egypt’s games at home always have a massive turn out from fans and now that the competition is starting proper with them being the host nation, we expect a much larger turn out from the Cairo fans as they hope to intimidate the Warriors fans.
The Egyptian fans will be turning out in their large numbers as they hope their team can win their opening game against Zimbabwe.