Africa Cup of Nations, Egypt 2019 began with a colourful eye-catching opening ceremony, with fans and viewers across the globe treated to the rich monuments of the Egyptians and as it is tradition, wrapped up with spectacular fireworks display. Egypt was given the mandate to host the Mundial just 6 months ago and to have pulled it off deserved a pat on the back, it could be recalled that Cameroun was initially giving the right to host the tournament, but was running dangerously behind schedule.
It is the 1st time that the Africa Cup of Nations will be played in line with the European summer after it was moved from January, it was a smart move to put an end to a biannual tussle between European clubs and African Nation on player release. The qualified team was also increased from 16 to 24 team for the 1st time ever. We are definitely in for a mouthwatering Africa Cup of Nations.
Matters on the pitch set up an opening Group A match between host, The Pharaohs of Egypt against The Warriors of Zimbabwe. The pressure is always going to be on Egypt to host and win the tournament, having agonizingly, narrowly lost the 2017 tournament 1-2 to Cameroun in the final. The Egyptians sure have enough quality to win it, with the likes of the current African footballer of the year Mo Salah in their ranks. They will have to navigate a tricky Group A that includes Zimbabwe, DR Congo and Uganda.
It was a scrappy 1st half with few clear cut chances to come by, yet the host could have gotten an early 1st-minute goal had Zimbabwe goalkeeper Edmore Sibanda not made 2 quick saves in succession. Zimbabwe defended in numbers and hoped to break on counters with the speed of Kaizer Chief ace Khama Billiat to count on, but the Egyptians deprived them of the ball. However, Zimbabwe could have gotten into a shock lead in the 35th minute, a free-kick in front of the box was quickly taken, but Billiat fluffed his line and fired wide. They would rue that missed chance 6 minutes later as Egypt took the lead, Mahmoud Trezeguet curled in a right-footed shot from the left side of the box into the bottom right corner. Egypt went into the break with a deserved 1 nil lead.
The 2nd-half started and it was all Egypt still and they could have doubled their lead through Liverpool man Mo Salah, but the forward wasted a handful of chances on the night. Egypt conveniently saw off the match with a slim 1 nil victory, as Zimbabwe, with just 2 shots on target all night posed little or no threat.
Zimbabwe will fancy their chances against less glamorous DRC and Uganda, but they now sweat on the fitness of their 1st choice goalkeeper who was replaced late in the game. The host, on the other hand, needs to do better in front of goal, especially Mo Salah needs to put the team ahead of self-glory, as things/matches will get tougher as the tournament progresses, missed chance may come back to hurt teams.
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