The Africa Cup of Nations will kick-off on Friday evening with the much anticipated match between the Egyptian Pharaohs and the Zimbabwe Warriors.
The tournament is historic for several reasons including the fact that 24 teams are participating for the first time, and it is being held in the June/July window rather than January/February.
In this article, we’ll share updates and developments ahead of the tournament opener including the following;
- All set for Egypt vs. Zimbabwe
- Al Sisi’s welcome and colourful ceremony – Video
- Expectations for the opening ceremony
- Cameroon players strike
- Predictions: Zimbabwe vs Egypt
- How AFCON works
- Stars to watch
- Africanews’ special coverage
Egypt vs. Zimbabwe underway
3’: Early pressure from hosts: Salah set up two crossing chances in the first two minutes; however, Zimbabwe’s goalkeeper clears both headers.
Line up for opening game: Egypt vs. Zimbabwe
Al-Sisi welcomes guests to their second home
Among the dignitaries in the VIP box at the Cairo International Stadium for the opening ceremony were the Egyptian president Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi – the only person who delivered a message of welcome.
The other African president sighted ins Mozambique’s Filipe Nyusi. FIFA president Gianni Infantino was president along with CAF president Ahmad Ahmad. Other big wigs of CAF and the Egyptian FA were also present.
Expectations for the opening ceremony
The opening ceremony of the tournament will be graced by several high profile personalities including FIFA president Gianni Infantino and Nigeria’s legendary musician Femi Kuti.
Femi Kuti, will perform the official song of this year’s AFCON, along with Egypt’s Hakim and Ivory Coast’s Dobet Gnahore.
The official song is titled ‘Metgameen’ which translates as ‘We Are Together’.
Cameroon players strike
Cameroon players had still not left their hotel in the capital, Yaounde to board a flight to Egypt, because of a pay dispute.
The reigning champions are set to start the tournament on Tuesday in a match against Guinea-Bissau, but the players did not appear for their flight on Thursday evening amid a spat over bonus payments.
“The Lions are still in Yaounde. They did not agree with their managers on the amount of their premiums,” the spokeswoman told Reuters.
Ministry of sports spokesman Gabriel Nloga said the players had each been paid a bonus of 20 million CFA francs ($34,635). A source at Cameroon’s soccer federation said the players had asked for twice that.
Pay disputes before major competitions are not unusual for African soccer federations who often do not have sufficient resources to pay their players high sums. Nigeria and Ghana have experienced similar problems in recent World Cups.
Will the Egyptian Pharaohs open their quest for a record eighth #AFCON2019 title with a win or will the Zimbabwe Warriors upset the hosts?
Share with us your prediction for the opening game that kicks off in a few hours.
Zimbabwe vs Egypt; who do you predict will win?
How AFCON works
The 24 teams at the tournament have been placed in six groups, and they will be playing to get one of 16 slots available for the knockout stages.
The winners and runners-up in each group and the best four third-place teams, qualify for the second round.
Stars to watch
Egypt’s star forward Mohamed Salah will be one of the main attractions for fans at home and across the continent.
The Liverpool forward, who recently made history as a Champions League winner with Liverpool, is a key player for the home side, and will be under pressure to help the Egyptian Pharaohs win a record eighth title.
Senegal’s Sadio Mane also won the Champions League this year with Liverpool, and will be leading the Lions of Teranga in their quest for a maiden AFCON triumph.
Morocco’s Hakim Ziyech who is the reigning best player in the Dutch football league, will be hoping to replicate his impressive performances with Ajax to the Atlas Lions.
Algeria’s Riyad Mahrez who has been named best player in the English Premier League and on the Africa continent, is one of coach Djamel Belmadi’s most potent players.
Ivorian forward Nicolas Pepe scored 22 goals in the French Ligue 1 last season, and is expected to fill the gap left by the country’s legend, Didier Drogba.