South Africa set to take advantage of Salah’s absence in AFCON Last 16 clash with Egypt

Bafana Bafana of South Africa are the latest side to stand in between the Pharaohs of Egypt including Mohamed Salah and the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) title on home soil.

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The two sides go head to head in the Round of 16 of the ongoing tournament with the Egyptians on a quest to claim a record-extending eighth continental title while South Africa chase a second.

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The hosts head into the tie as the obvious favourites following a great start to the tournament which has brought three wins from three games with no goal conceded.

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South Africa, on the other hand, squeezed through a tight group and barely qualified for the round, finishing as the fourth-best third-placed team during the group stage.

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Stuart Baxter’s men head into the tie fresh from defeats to African giants – Ivory Coast and Morocco – so they seem to struggle against the top sides at this tournament, and Egypt are widely regarded as the ‘biggest side’ at the ongoing tournament, making them huge favourites to lift the title on July 19 in Cairo.

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The North African side have enjoyed a great deal of success in this tournament over the years, while they come into this clash with a perfect record after recording wins against Zimbabwe, Congo, and Uganda without letting any goal in. South Africa, on the other hand, have scored only once all tournament.

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Mo Salah and co will be boosted by their home advantage, which will see them play all of their games in the national stadium through to the final. The Pharaohs have won their last eight games on home soil, while they should have too much firepower for a South Africa side who have recorded poor results so far.

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Team News

Egypt: In a late scare for the Pharaohs, Mohamed Salah may be a doubt for the round of 16 clash as he is currently ill with a cold. The Liverpool star missed the final training session before the game in a bid to recover in time from his cold.  Also, Ahmed ‘Kouka’ Hassan will not be available due to injury while Marwan Mohsen is a doubt due to exhaustion from playing all three games so far.

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South Africa: Stuart Baxter had come under criticism for his team selections in the previous games but the Englishman has revealed that there will be no changes to his process.  “I think we are going to do exactly as we have done,” Baxter revealed. “We are going to look at the opponents and see which players fit in and try to build a game plan around that. There’s no great time to start moving in between systems, but we can during the game if we have to.”

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Players to watch:

Egypt: Mohamed Salah

Egypt’s talisman to watch out for in this game is the incredible Mo Salah who is likely to find the net if he is deemed fit to play. The Liverpool forward has scored in back-to-back games for his country in this tournament, and he should have some joy against an average South Africa defence.

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South Africa: Percy Tau

The Bafana Bafana are yet to make any major impact in attack with their only goal at the tournament so far coming from a set-piece. However, most of their best plays have come from the wing where the exciting Percy Tau has been operating efficiently. Stuart Baxter’s men are expected to approach the game with caution and Tau would be instrumental in causing damage to the Egyptian defence on the break.

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Head to Head (since South-Africa’s re-admission into CAF tournaments)

  • South Africa 2-0 Egypt (24 November 1995)
  • South Africa 0-1 Egypt (24 January 1996)
  • South Africa 0-2 Egypt (28 February 1998)
  • South Africa 2-1 Egypt (16 December 1998)
  • South Africa 1-0 Egypt (10 November 2001)
  • Egypt 2-1 South Africa (15 November 2003)
  • Egypt 1-2 South Africa (14 January 2006)
  • South Africa 1-0 Egypt (26 March 2011)
  • South Africa 1-0 Egypt (6 September 2016)

Prediction and Betting tips

Egypt should prove too strong for the Bafana Bafana to handle and the hosts should win comfortably. With South Africa’s lack of sharpness in attack and the solidity of The Pharaohs’ defence, Egypt win to nil is a great betting option at 2.12 odds.