The 2019 AFCON kicks-off in Egypt tomorrow with record winners Egypt taking on Zimbabwe tomorrow Friday June 21, 2019 in Cairo.
Egypt will be chasing a record eighth trophy, while Zimbabwe on their part will try to progress to the knock-out stages for the first time in four attempts.
Egypt were beating in the finals in the 2017 competition in Gabon by Cameroon who lost the hosting rights of the 2019 tournament due to delays in preparedness and security reasons.
The land of the Pharaohs will be hosting the competition for a fifth time, and Egypt has won almost all the previous editions they have hosted.
They lifted the trophy in 1959, 1986 and 2006 on home soil. The only time they hosted and failed to win was in 1974 when they finished third.
Egypt’s quest for an eighth title has been boosted by the presence of a fully fit Mohamed Salah who is arguably the best player in the continent right now.
Salah is an icon in his country and English club Liverpool which he helped to European Champions League glory this season. It is therefore normal for the Egyptian public to dream of another title on home soil with a lot of hopes placed in their serial goal scorer and national hero.
Zimbabwe’s coach Sunday Chidzambwa has made it clear that their goal is to get past the group stage in Egypt and they will play to the strengths of their team even against a dreaded opponent like Egypt with a partisan home crowd pushing them all the way to ultimate glory.
Players to Watch
Egypt- Mohamed Salah
Egypt’s reputation in the Afcon has hardly been built on individual prowess, rather its been more of the team and a collective display. The Pharaoh will be challenging Africa with their home advantage with star players like Mohamed El Neny of Arsenal, team captain Ahmed Elmohamady from Aston Villa and other familiar faces. But it will be pretentious to admit that the spotlight will not be on the Liverpool striker Mohamed Salah who like it or not will carry the weight of the expectations of 95 million Egyptian people on his shoulders.
Zimbabwe- Knowledge Musona
With the entire nation sweating over the fitness of the Kaizer Chiefs man Khama Billiat, more and more responsibility and expectations are pushed on the shoulders of their 28 year old Lokeren forward who joint Lokeren on loan from Anderlecht this season, Knowledge Musona. With five goals in the qualifiers, the captain of the Warriors of Zimbabwe firmly has his head rooted on his shoulders and will not mind to be the spear head of his country’s Egyptian mission.
Key Facts Ahead of the Game
-Egypt have reached the final in all of their last four Afcon appearances, losing only one of their last 25 games in the competition (Won 18, Drawn 1 and lost 1). Their only loss was in the final of the 2017 tournament against Cameroon in Gabon.
-Zimbabwe are making their fourth Afcon appearance. The Warriors have finished bottom of their group in each of their previous three tournaments and have not kept a clean sheet in nine group stage matches.
-Pharaoh King 26 year old Mohamed Salah with 39 goals in 62 caps, was directly involved in four of Egypt’s five goals at the 2017 Afcon in Gabon. He scored two goals and provided as many assists. That was the most in the tournament, only DRC’s Junior Kabananga equaled that tally.