Egypt have started their Africa Cup of Nations with a 1-0 win over Zimbabwe. Dominant for much of the match, the favorites struggled to break down outgunned but well-drilled opponents.
It’s quite common for an opening match at a major tournament to not quite match the entertainment value of the opening ceremony before it, and Friday’s game in Cairo was no exception.
The opening 10 seconds seemed to threaten a walkover, when Zimbabwe goalkeeper Edmore Sibana and center back Teenage Hadebe almost colluded to concede possession in front of their goal for no good reason. But Sibana was then able to leap into action several times in the first 10 minutes, settling himself down ready for what would turn into an excellent performance for the underdogs.
Mo Salah was his usual lively self but couldn’t get in on the goals
Always the center of attention when playing for Egypt, Mohamed Salah was hardworking and incisive all night, forcing Sibana into several saves. However, it was Egypt’s other main attacking presence, Mahmoud Ahmed Ibrahim Hassan (far more commonly known as Trezeguet, the nickname his youth coach gave him), who broke the deadlock. Trezeguet cut in from the left and fired a right-footer into the corner shortly before the break.
The footballing spectacle couldn’t quite match the opening ceremony that preceded it
Egypt thus secure three important points at the first opportunity, as the first ever Africa Cup of Nations to take place in June and July gets underway.
Even starting at 10 p.m., temperatures were still close to 30 degrees Celsius (86 Fahrenheit) at kickoff. The match was preceded by a colorful display heavily laden with ancient Egyptian imagery. The mandatory fireworks were accompanied by giant pyramids on the pitch, a pink sphinx, people dressed in ancient Egyptian garb, and more than a few themed nods to the nickname given to Mo Salah in Liverpool: The Egyptian King.
The final will also take place in Cairo, on July 19
Tomorrow, DR Congo take on Uganda to complete matchday one in Group A, Egypt are tops now with three points and a goal.
Over in Group B, two-time champions, Nigeria take on Burundi and Guinea face debutants Madagascar.