Mo Salah factor a big threat for Warriors
Africa Cup of Nations hosts Egypt are expected to make light work of Zimbabwe in the tournament opener at Cairo International Stadium tonight (10pm), but that's easier said than done.
The Pharaohs, who are seven-time champions, are one of the favourites to win the finals again.
And the fact that they are playing on home soil and are ranked 58th in world football, compared to Zimbabwe's 109 placing, means Egypt are overwhelming favourites to get their tournament off to a winning start at the 75,000-seater venue.
When they take to the field, Mohamed Salah, the Liverpool forward, may prove too good for the Warriors, who are led by former Kaizer Chiefs striker, Knowledge Musona.
The north Africans have also won their last four matches against The Warriors, with their last victory (4-2) coming in 2013, which gives them a psychological advantage.
"We are the favourites to win the 2019 Africa Cup," said Egypt mentor Javier Aguirre, who was speaking to the media ahead of the clash. Aguirre's statement proves Egypt are looking far beyond their first match.
"Egypt are playing at home, have passionate supporters and Mohamed Salah, the best footballer in Africa."
Salah, who won the Champions League with the English side Liverpool, was on a break since the end of the season and would be fresh for the tournament.
Be that as it may, a football match is not won on paper, but what they produce out there on the field.
Also speaking to the media, Zimbabwe captain Knowledge Musona warned that his team is not going to be a lamb to the slaughter.
"We must not just stop Salah, we must stop all the Egyptians. If we concentrate only on one player, others will destroy us," Musona said.
"My boys must be prepared to contest every loose ball, defend and attack in numbers, and take our scoring chances."
The Warriors are a solid unit, as was evident in the qualifiers when they topped their group.
In terms of the approach from the respective sides, Egypt are expected to go with a 4-2-3-1 formation and Zimbabwe setting up a 4-3-3, as Musona and Khama Billiat, who was facing a late fitness test because of a knee injury, playing a supporting role to striker Nyasha Mushekwi.
Egypt may be the favourites, but don't write off Zimbabwe. just yet.
Weekend Afcon fixtures
Tonight: Egypt v Zimbabwe, 10pm
Tomorrow: DR Congo v Uganda, 4.30pm;
Nigeria v Burundi, 7pm;
Guinea v Madagascar, 10pm
Sunday: Morocco v Namibia, 4.30pm;
Senegal v Tanzania, 7pm;
Algeria v Kenya, 10pm
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