Hosts Egypt opens its Africa Cup of Nations 2019 campaign with a match against Zimbabwe on June 22, 2019, at the Cairo International Stadium in Cairo, Egypt.

Egypt qualified on October 16, 2018, after finishing as the runner-up of Group J and as the hosts of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations. They finished with a record of 4-1-1 and a total of 13 points behind Group winner Tunisia who had 15 points and a record of 5-1. With the way it looks, Egypt got the better of the draw as they are bracketed in Group A along with Zimbabwe, Uganda and DR Congo. With a relatively easy group, they are expected to cruise through round one with little to no resistance. The Pharaohs are looking to replicate or improve their second place finish in the last edition of this tournament.

“Soccer" Egypt (Group A)

  • Goalkeepers: Mahmoud ‘Genesh’ Abdelrahim (Zamalek), Mohamed el Shenawy (Al Ahly), Ahmed al Shennawy (Pyramids)
  • Defenders: Mahmoud Alaa, Mahmoud Hamdy (both Zamalek), Omar Gaber, Ahmed Ayman Mansour (both Pyramids), Ayman Ashraf (Ahly), Ahmed Elmohamady (Aston Villa/ENG), Baher El Mohamady (Ismaily), Ahmed Hegazi (West Bromwich Albion/ENG)
  • Midfielders: Nabil Emad Donga (Pyramids), Mohamed Elneny (Arsenal/ENG), Ali Ahmed Ghazal (Feirense/POR), Tarek Hamed (Zamalek), Mahmoud ‘Trezeguet’ Hassan (Kasimpasa/TUR), Abdullah al-Saeed (Pyramids), Waleed Soliman (Ahly), Amr Warda (Atromitos/GRE)
  • Forwards: Ahmed Ali Kamel (Al Mokawloon), Ahmed Hassan Kouka (Olympiakos/GRE), Marwan Mohsen (Ahly), Mohamed Salah (Liverpool/ENG)
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Odds from as of 6/17/19

Zimbabwe entered the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations last March 24, 2019, by winning Group G with a record of 3-2 with one draw and a total of 11 points. This will mark Zimbabwe’s fourth appearance in this continental tournament and the first time since 2006 that they made it in two consecutive editions. The Warriors have never made it to the World Cup, have never made it past the group stages in this tournament. Zimbabwe didn’t take part in the World Cup qualifiers after being disqualified in 2015 but they bounced back to win the Cosafa Cup last year.

“Soccer" Zimbabwe (Group A)

  • Goalkeepers: George Chigova (Polokwane City/RSA), Elvis Chipezeze (Baroka/RSA), Edmore Sibanda (Witbank Spurs/RSA)
  • Defenders: Tendayi Darikwa (Nottingham Forest/ENG), Jimmy Dzingai (Power Dynamos/ZAM), Teenage Hadebe (Kaizer Chiefs/RSA), Divine Lunga (Golden Arrows/RSA), Alec Mudimu (CEFN Druids/WAL), Ronald Pfumbidzai (Bloemfontein Celtic/RSA)
  • Midfielders: Talent Chawapiwa, Ovidy Karuru (both AmaZulu/RSA), Khama Billiat (Kaizer Chiefs/RSA), Thabani Kamusoko (Young Africans/TAN), Tafadzwa Kutinyu (Azam/TAN), Kudakwashe Mahachi (Orlando Pirates/RSA), Marshall Munetsi (Reims/FRA), Marvellous Nakamba (Club Brugge/BEL), Danny Phiri (Golden Arrows/RSA)
  • Forwards: Tinotenda Kadewere (Le Havre/FRA), Nyasha Mushekwi (Dalian Yifang/CHN), Knowledge Musona (Lokeren/BEL), Knox Mutizwa (Golden Arrows/RSA), Evans Rusike (SuperSport Utd/RSA)

“Soccer" Who Wins?

Egypt head home with a 3-1-1 record in their last five matches. The Pharaohs finished their African Cup of Nations qualifying with a win against Tunisia and a draw against Niger. Then they went 2-1 in their preparations for the tournament with a 0-1 loss to Nigeria in March and wins over Tanzania and Guinea last week. On the other hand, Zimbabwe enters the tournament with a record of 2-1 with two draws in their last five fixtures. They beat lowly Comoros Islands and Lesotho, lost to Zambia, and were forced into a draw against Nigeria and Tanzania in their last two friendlies.

Javier Aguirre decided to field a squad that had the right balance of experience and young blood. Ahmed Elmohamady is the most capped player with 85 appearances for Egypt and the veteran has been handed the armband by Aguirre. A surprise inclusion in the squad is striker Ahmed Ali of the Arab Contractors who is making his first appearance for Egypt in eight years.

With former Chelsea winger Mohamed Salah coming off a highly successful Premier League season where he was the joint-top scorer and won the Champions League trophy, Egypt will be a tough opponent for any team in the tournament and they are big soccer favorites to win their opener.  A peak form Salah is expected to light up the scorebooks as the league’s top scorer and with him, the Pharaohs are expected to soar.

Salah will make life miserable for the Zimbabwe defense. The Warriors’ defense underwent a significant change since the last edition of the Africa Cup. Defensive midfielder Katsande and the three goalkeepers who took the trip to Gabon were overlooked. Likewise, defender

Costa Nhamoinesu announced his international retirement despite being coaxed back to return. The likes of Hardlife Zvirekwi, Onismor Bhasera, and Bruce Kangwa are also no longer around. Tendayi Darikwa is likely the oldest starter on defense at age 27 but remember that he made his international debut only in 2017.

No question, Zimbabwe is in a tricky spot after a tough draw and the inexperience of their defense. Egypt not only has the best scoring machine in the tournament but they will be playing in front of their home crowd. I like the hosts to win this opener. Prediction: Egypt

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