Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - We are title favourites, says Egypt coach before Africa Cup opener

We are title favourites, says Egypt coach before Africa Cup opener

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Egypt’s forward Mohamed Salah listens to a coach during a training session on Wednesday at the Cairo Military Academy Stadium in the Egyptian capital two days ahead of their opening match against Zimbabwe in the 2019 football Africa Cup of Nations. Khaled DESOUKI/afp

We are title favourites, says Egypt coach before Africa Cup opener

Africa Cup of Nations hosts Egypt are confident of defeating Zimbabwe on Friday in the opening match of a tournament expanded to 24 teams and staged in mid-year for the first time.

Egypt lie 51 places higher on the world rankings ahead of the Group A clash, top the title betting at 5/1 with Zimbabwe 150/1, and have won three of the four previous Cup of Nations they hosted.

“We are the favourites to win the 2019 Africa Cup,” said 60-year-old coach Javier Aguirre, the first Mexican to guide a nation that has won the competition a record seven times.

“Egypt are playing at home, can count on passionate support and have Mohamed Salah, the best footballer in Africa.”

Salah has returned home after another stellar season with Liverpool, which he completed by scoring the first goal in a 2-0 Champions League final triumph over Tottenham Hotspur.

His 22 English Premier League goals last season gave him share of the Golden Boot title with two fellow Africans, Senegalese Sadio Mane and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang of Gabon.

Aguirre says fears that his talisman may be jaded after a long season of Premier League and Champions League football are unfounded.

“Mohamed took a holiday after the Champions League final, did not play in our first warm-up match and only came on after half-time in the second,” he countered.

Egypt beat fellow qualifiers Tanzania and Guinea and what pleased Aguirre most was not the results, but the large number of scoring chances the Pharaohs created.

“We had about 20 chances to score against the Tanzanians and almost as many against the Guineans. That is very encouraging.”

Aguirre also dismissed the view that Egypt rely too heavily on Salah, saying: “We have selected 23 footballers who are totally committed to the cause of winning the Cup of Nations.

“It is impossible for one footballer to win a Cup of Nations on his own. Mohamed will receive tremendous support from his team-mates.

‘Mentally and physically ready’

“All the players are mentally and physically ready and we look forward to beginning our campaign with a victory over Zimbabwe.”

The countries have met only once in a Cup of Nations with Egypt winning 2-1 in Tunisia 15 years ago and both teams were eliminated after the first round.

Aguirre expects the Zimbabwe Warriors to be “a well organised team who will seek to score mainly through counterattacks and set pieces.

“We have studied videos and identified strengths and weaknesses. I do not believe they will take us by surprise.”

Zimbabwe coach and former captain Sunday Chidzambwa was keeping his thoughts to himself ahead of the tournament opener.

But captain and forward Knowledge Musona, who plays in Belgium, stressed that they must not become obsessed by Salah, despite the huge threat he poses.

“We must not just stop Salah, we must stop all the Egyptians. If we concentrate only on one, others will destroy us,” he warned.

“My boys must be prepared to contest every loose ball, defend and attack in numbers, and take our scoring chances. “Against Egypt in Cairo we are unlikely to get many scoring chances, so clinical finishing is essential.

“We are not here to talk – we are here to play football. We are in Egypt to achieve success and make every Zimbabwean proud of us.

“While I would love to add to the three goals I scored in the qualifying competition, it does not matter who scores, as long as they are Zimbabwean.”

The Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda are the other teams in Group A and they meet on Saturday at the same venue as the opening match.

Group winners and runners-up qualify for the knockout second round along with the best four of the six third-place finishers.

MOST VIEWED

  • PM: Armed uprising to be destroyed immediately

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday said if an armed group were to rise up as announced by Sam Rainsy, the “acting president” of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), they would be destroyed immediately. Hun Sen said Rainsy’s announcement of having

  • Sihanoukville to begin road project

    The government will spend $200 million to improve Sihanoukville’s infrastructure. The eight-month project will involve the rebuilding of 34 streets with a total of more than 84km. Pal Chandara, the secretary of state and spokesman for the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, told The Post

  • Artefact is seized from American auctioneers

    Cambodian and US archaeologists on Thursday discussed the formalities and procedures of returning to Cambodia an artefact which was recently seized by US Homeland Security Investigators (HSI) from an auction house in San Francisco. On Monday, the HSI said US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE),

  • New note to mark King’s coronation

    The government announced on Monday that a new 15,000 riel bank-note will be introduced to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the coronation of King Norodom Sihamoni on October 29. Prime Minister Hun Sen said the new note bears the portrait of the King, with an image of