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Egypt, Zimbabwe get AFCON 2019 underway

Egypt have won the AFCON a record 7 times. (PHOTOS/AGENCIES)

AFCON 2019

Egypt vs Zimbabwe

Cairo International Stadium, Cairo

Friday, 21-06-2019 @11pm

CAIRO – The long-awaited 32nd Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) will get underway today, Friday, June 21st at the Cairo International Stadium in Cairo.

Record winners and hosts-Egypt who were only awarded the rights to host the competition at the start of this year, will take on 4 time participants Zimbabwe in the opening game.

The Pharaohs who have won the competition on 7 separate occasions enter into the game as favourites and will have added pressure as the tournament is being hosted on their home turf.

With a host of stars in their rooster including Muhammad Salah, Egypt are not only expected to breeze past Zimbabwe but are also one of the strong favourites for the 2019 AFCON.

For Zimbabwe, they have already encountered issues even before the kick of a first ball.

On Thursday, the Zimbabwe players refused to train on Thursday until they receive their unpaid wages and bonuses. However, intervened and it is highly believed they players will honour the fixture.

Zimbabwe players refused to train on Thursday.

What the managers are saying

Sunday Chidzambwa, Zimbabwe manager 

“We are among 24 other teams fighting for AFCON.

“Now that we are in the AFCON group stages, we will work hard to get the best possible results in all our games.

“We know how strong Egypt are especially when they play at home and the fans on their side supporting them throughout the competition.

Javier Aguirre, Egypt manager

“I’m a very lucky guy because as a coach and an assistant coach, and also as a player, I played a lot of international events.

“I started 43 years ago knowing nothing, with no expectations nor dreams, just to play. Now, aged 60, I am almost at the opening game of a massive tournament.

“To be honest, though, my mood is quite different this time. I have a lot of responsibility — the head coach of this big project. Also, in Egypt football is almost a religion. Around 100 million people here, they all love the game. It’s incredible. But I prefer it this way, really.

Team news

Salah looks certain to start in his favoured right-wing position, with Marwan Moshen leading the line. The veteran striker, who plies his trade for Al Ahly at club level, scored a couple of goals during qualifying.

Salah is expected to start on the right of Egypt’s attack.

Mahmoud Hassan is another player to look out for in the Egypt ranks, having built up a good understanding with Salah in the frontline.

As for Zambia, they are sweating on the fitness of Kharma Billiat. The Kaizer Chiefs midfielder, considered one of the Warriors’ most dangerous players, has missed a couple of training sessions and is considered a doubt.

Elsewhere, Nottingham Forest ace Tendayi Darikwa is in line to retain his place.

Match Stats

This will be the 5th meeting between the two sides since January 2004. In the past four meetings, Egypt has won all of them, scoring 10 goals whilst conceding 4 goals. Only one of those 4 meetings came at the AFCON finals, in Tunisia 2004 with Egypt coming from a goal down to defeat Zimbabwe 2-1.

Egypt are seeking a record-extending eighth Africa Cup of Nations title. They are expected to get their campaign off to a winning start against Group A outsiders Zimbabwe, with DR Congo and Uganda the two other teams who Egypt will face in the group stage. Much of their hopes rest on the form of Liverpool’s Champions League winner Mohamed Salah. After a long season he was given time extra time to go off on holiday before joining up with the squad just over a week before the start of the tournament. Egypt won both of their warm-up matches ahead of the competition, a 1-0 victory against Tanzania was followed by a 3-1 win against Guinea last Sunday when Salah came off the bench in the second half and weighed in with two assists.

Zimbabwe have yet to progress beyond the group stage at the Africa Cup of Nations in three previous attempts. In 2017 they finished at the bottom of their group but gave some very spirited showings against Senegal, Tunisia and Algeria. They qualified for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations courtesy of winning Group G, and in doing so they picked up four points against DR Congo, who they will also face in their final group fixture at the finals. Key players for Zimbabwe are expected to be striker Knowledge Musona and talented midfielder Marvelous Nakamba who has featured in the UEFA Champions League for Club Brugge.

The other group A game

-DR Congo vs Uganda – Saturday, June 22nd @5:30pm

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