The 2019 African Cup of Nations (AFCON) hosts Egypt will seek to hit the ground running against Zimbabwe in the Nations Cup’s curtain raiser on Friday night at the Cairo International Stadium.
The Pharaohs are overwhelming the favourites against the Warriors, and the north-African team will look to kick off their AFCON campaign on a high by claiming maximum points.
Mohamed Salah led team came close to lifting the continent’s most coveted award two years ago when they lost 2-1 to Cameroon in Gabon.
Having won the Champions league last season, Mohamed Salah will play an important role in the Pharaohs squad if the team is to win an eighth AFCON title on home soil.
This is Zimbabwe’s fourth appearance in the Nation’s Cup. The warriors have never progressed past the group stages in the tournament.
After failing to qualify from 2008 to 2015, Zimbabwe finished bottom of their group picking a single point two years ago, drawing 2-2 with Algeria but then losing 2-0 to Senegal and 4-2 to Tunisia.
Egypt’s record in this tournament is compared to none, lifting the trophy on seven occasions and finishing as runners-up to Cameroon in 2017.
Egypt ended a seven-year absence in the tournament two years ago in Gabon but ultimately lost in the final 2-1to Cameroon in the final.
Head to head statistics
Egypt and Zimbabwe have met twelve times in their history. In those 12 matches, Zimbabwe have only won once and picking four draws.
The last time Zimbabwe picked at least a point against Egypt was back in 1999 in a friendly match.
Egypt have maintained unbeaten record at home against Zimbabwe having won five times and picking two draws.
The last time the two teams met in the Nation’s Cup was in 2004 and the pharaohs won by 2-1.
Head to head results of the last three matches; Zimbabwe 2-4 Egypt, Egypt 2-1 Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe 1-2 Egypt.
Egypt’s home record
The Pharaohs have a formidable record when playing in front of their own supporters, securing 11 straight victories to stretch an unbeaten sequence in such fixtures to 16.
Egypt have won the three out of the four African Cup of Nations they have hosted in the past, that is in 959, 1974, 1986 and 2006.
In the 1974 edition Egypt were eliminated in the semi-final on home soil by DR Congo and ended third.
Stars to watch
The match star player to watch is none other than Mohamed Salah who emerged as the joint top scorer in the just concluded Premier League campaign with 22 goals.
Mohamed Salah was Egypt’s best player in the last continental showpiece in 2017 having contributed four of five goals Egypt scored in the tournament. He scored two goals and recording further two assists.
Salah’s performance prompted his inclusion in the 2017 AFCON team of the tournament.
And having won the Champions League, Mohamed Salah is eager to add another major trophy of the year.
Other key players in Egypt’s squad include Aston Villa’s Ahmed Elmohamady, Ahmed Hegazi of West Brom and Arsenal midfielder Mohamed Elneny.
Zimbabwe’s side will feature British-based pair of defender Tendayi Darikwa and Alec Mudimu who play for Nottingham Forest and Welsh Premier League side Cefn Druids respectively.
The Afcon opening game will be officiated by Cameroonian referee Sidi Alioum, he will be assisted by fellow countryman Evarist Menkouande and the Senegalese El Hadji Malick Samba.
However the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) technology will not be used in this game and the other remaining group stage matches.
Confederation of African Football (CAF) announced on Thursday that the technology will be used from the quarter final stage.