Mohamed Salah’s Egypt got off to a flying start in their 2019 Africa Cup of Nations campaign by seeing off the Warriors of Zimbabwe by a lone goal. While the Liverpool forward played all 90 minutes, another talented forward Trezeguet got the winning goal towards the end of the first half to ensure that the hosts picked up all three points in their Group A opener.
While a lot of pundits and fans expected the Pharaohs to win, here are 5 things Daily Advent picked from the opening game.
Edmund Sibanda is good enough for top-flight European football
While there are many talented footballers from Africa, very few African goalkeepers start for the biggest clubs in Europe. Edmund Sibanda’s performances during this game proved that he could have made the jump to a top flight club in Europe. The Witbank Spurs star has played for Zimbabwe since 2008 and currently plays his club football at the second-tier of South African football league.
The Egyptians started the game with such attacking intent that the Warriors of Zimbabwe could have conceded 3 goals before the half-hour mark. However, the 35-year-old goalkeeper kept his side very much in the game making saves to deny the hosts from finding the back of the net. Throughout the course of the game, he was commanding in his display as he instructed his defenders and the rest of the team in containing the Egyptian attackers. He was substituted off the pitch with ten minutes left to play after picking up an injury
Salah does not need to do everything by himself
Liverpool star Mo Salah is probably the most exciting player to watch at this edition of the AFCON because he is undoubtedly one of the best players in the World. The UEFA Champions League winner might be feeling the pressure as he played with selfish intent to score goals on his own. While he might be a class apart from the rest of his Egyptian teammates, his inability to put his ego aside and create chances for the team might hurt the Pharaohs going forward.
The Liverpool star took seven shots in the game while the remaining Egyptian players combined managed only 9 shots. He made two key passes in the game one less than Egyptian defender Ahmed El-Mohammady. His 72% pass accuracy was also the lowest amongst all the Egyptians that started the game for the hosts. While a lot is expected from Salah, he would need to do better for the Pharaohs of Egypt’s if they would go ahead to win the AFCON title.
Zimbabwe play well but they lack the final touch
The Warriors of Zimbabwe went into the opening fixture as underdogs and a lot of fans, pundits and football lovers in Africa expected them to lose tonight’s game. However, they were solid in defence and creative in midfield -especially with their transitions when they needed to convert defence into attack. However, despite their spirited performances to get the ball to the final third, they lacked the final touch to create chances and score goals against Egypt.
Talismanic forward Knowledge Musonda did not get a lot of chances in the regions where he is most dangerous on the pitch. The birthday boy was kept quiet by Hegazi and Alaa who were the pillars of the Egyptian defence. “The Smiling Assasin” was forced to drop down into the attacking midfield position but his attempted through balls could not do damage to the Egyptian defence.
Up top ?#EGYZIM #TotalAFCON2019 pic.twitter.com/VYpR47fsyx
— CAF (@CAF_Online) June 21, 2019
African Referees should do better to help the quality of football.
The Cameroonian referee Neant Alioum did not issue a single yellow card until the dying minutes of the game although there were almost 20 fouls committed over both halves. In all fairness to the referee, he wanted the game to progress with few interruptions but a little caution would have made the game ‘neater.’ African teams have a tendency to get stuck in and tackle hard in order to unsettle their opponents and this can cause severe injuries when uncurbed.
There were eleven fouls in the first half including the clash that caused a nosebleed for West Bromwich Albion defender, Ahmed Hegazi. The Zimbabwe goalkeeper, Sibanda was also injured during the game after a foul and the referee failed to stop play immediately. While the VAR would be employed during the tournament from the quarter-final stages, several fouls were left unchecked by the referee. There were rumors of Trezeguet being offside at some point during the build-up to the winning goal.
Hegazi is still a solid defender and Trezeguet is important to Egypt
Ahmed Hegazi was very solid in defence for the hosts tonight as his defensive display kept the Warriors of Zimbabwe quiet. The West Bromwich Albion defender even got smacked in the face but his influence on the team was so obvious that the coach decided to keep him on for 90 minutes. Trezeguet got the winning goal for the hosts but was very exciting in attack. While the fans cheered Salaha’s every touch, these two players were better than the Premier League forward on the pitch tonight.