For the first time in history, the African Cup of Nation (AFCON) hosts a 24 team tournament which has now gone into the round of 16 as Egypt face Bafana Bafana of South Africa in a tricky encounter.
So far, it has been exciting and intriguing with countries like Madagascar, Uganda, Benin, the so called ‘minnows’ punching above their weight.
As always, we have come to see superb goals, dramas, tackles and beautiful celebrations all synonymous with African competitions. Egypt, the host and also one of the high flying teams of this tournament are among one of the few teams to win all of their group matches alongside Morocco and Algeria.
The Pharaohs defeated Zimbabwe by 1-0 in the opening game of the competition courtesy of a beautiful strike from Mahmoud Trezeguet, though they were meant to work hard for the victory as Zimbabwe and Khama Biliat threatened on numerous occasions.
In subsequent matches against DRC Congo and Uganda, they won both games by 2-0, Mohammed Salah and captain Ahmed El-Mohammadi both scoring a goal each. Highlight was Mo’Salah, fresh from winning the Uefa Champions League with Liverpool scoring a sublime free kick past Dennis Onyango in the Uganda goal in the last group game.
Javier Aguirre’s men have been in fine form so far, scoring five goals conceding none in all of their group games. Up next for them is the Bafana Bafana of South Africa. Stuart Baxter’s men qualified from group D as one of the four third-best placed teams. Two losses against Ivory Coast and Morocco and a 1-0 win against Namibia was enough for the Southern African side to seal a place in the next round of the tournament.
On Saturday, in Cairo, Bafana Bafana will be looking to cause an upset against the host in front of the ever present home crowd. For Egypt and Salah they will be looking to continue their fine streak with a quarter final place at stake as they look to win an unprecedented eighth AFCON title.
Guest Writer: Mohammed Abdulhammed