Afcon 2019: Egypt 1-0 Zimbabwe – Three takeaways

Mohamed Salah’s Egypt didn’t need any more reminder of how close this year’s Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals will be after a tight opening day slim win over Zimbabwe.

The Pharaohs tipped off their 2019 Afcon campaign with a 1-0 victory via Mahmoud Trezeguet’s 41st minute curler against the Warriors of Zimbabwe.

The Pharaohs met an opponent [Zimbabwe] which had little history in terms of the previous 31 editions of the continental showpiece.

After the 90 minutes of the opening game, it is a clear picture now that other title challengers might have panicked or resorted to rechecking their approach heading into their encounters.

Here are our three takeaways:

No pushovers

Zimbabwe display against Egypt is an indication that tipped favourites shouldn’t go into games underrating opponents.

The Warriors made 11 attempts on goal, two of the strikes nearly beating El Shenawy, causing problems on the flanks via the promptings of Billiat against Elmohammedy and Ashraf.

Coach Chidzambwa mapped a 4-3-3 formation similar to that of Javier Aguirre, stretching the game to wide areas to create space.

The system allowed Mohamed Salah and Khama Billiat some space in wide areas and both aided their respective teams’ attack resorting to a total end to end action from start to finish though Egypt were slightly ahead, seeing the ball more.

The Mohamed Salah problem

Undoubtedly, Mohamed Salah holds the keys to the Pharaohs’ display and any opponent must first find a way to curtail the Liverpool attacker’s dangerous moves on either flank.

There were times Salah’s moves were a bit erratic, yet the defense of Zimbabwe had a torrid time dealing with him and had to double up on him, creating the space for the first and only move on the right flank by Mahmoud Trezeguet leading to the only goal of the game.

 ‘Veteran’ Sibanda is the man

With first-choice George Chigova unavailable due to suspension from the qualifiers, Zimbabwe had to fall on experience and rightly so, Edmore Sibanda stepped up to the plate.

He practically stopped Egypt from going on rampage especially in the early minutes with back-to-back amazing saves.

Sibanda picked up an injury in his early minutes heroics but managed to keep on denying Salah and colleagues until Trezeguet found a way to undo him with an excellent opening four minutes from the break. Blame the keeper? No, he is no superman.

The 33-year-old shot-stopper however had his near flawless outing cut short by another injury – knee – and had to go off in the 78th minute. Chigova has real competition in the Warriors team but will Sibanda recover and keep his spot in Zimbabwe’s next game? An eye on you Warrior!




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