Hosts Egypt get favourable African Nations Cup draw

Hatem Maher , Friday 12 Apr 2019,
Ahmed Hassan draws DR Congo during the draw (Photo: Reuters)

Hosts Egypt should face no difficulty booking a place in the African Nations Cup knockout stage on home soil after getting a favourable draw in Cairo on Friday.

In a glamorous ceremony at the breathtaking Giza Pyramids, the Pharaohs were drawn with DR Congo, Uganda and Zimbabwe in Group A of the expanded 24-team tournament, which kicks off on 21 June.

The trio are familiar opponents for a dominant Egypt side who hold the record of most Nations Cup triumphs with seven titles under their belt.

"The pressure is always on us, because we are the record winners. We are always considered as one of the favourites," Egypt's assistant coach Hany Ramzy told beIN Sports after the draw.

"Nothing is easy [in the group], we respect our opponents. All the three teams have many good players. 

"Our job is to prepare well for our matches and we will take it one step at a time," added Ramzy, who was an instrumental member of the Egypt side that won the 1998 Nations Cup in Burkina Faso.

Egypt won the title the last time the country hosted the biennial tournament in 2006, crushing DR Congo 4-1 in the quarter-finals after producing a vivid attacking display.

That triumph marked the start of the team's most successful reign, with Egypt going on to defend their title in 2008 and 2010 and become the first ever side to win a straight hat-trick of trophies.

But a dramatic decline saw Egypt fail to reach the following three editions, having suffered the adverse effects of political turmoil at home. However, they embarked on a successful rebuilding process that took them to the final of the 2017 edition in Gabon, where they lost 2-1 to champions Cameroon after surrendering their lead.

With the top two and best four third-placed sides advancing to the round of 16 in the Nations Cup's revamped format, Egypt's progress should be a mere formality.

They played Uganda twice in their successful qualifying bid for the 2018 World Cup, losing 1-0 on the road before recovering with a 1-0 victory at home, thanks to a first-half strike from Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah.

Egypt also took on Zimbabwe in the 2014 World Cup qualifiers, claiming the double over them with 2-1 and 4-2 victories.

The tournament will run from 21 June to 19 July. Egypt face Zimbabwe in the opening match at Cairo's International Stadium. 

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Group A W D L P
2 1 0 7
Burkina Faso
1 1 1 4
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1 1 1 4
0 1 2 1
Group B W D L P
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1 1 1 4
1 0 2 3
Group C W D L P
2 1 0 7
1 2 0 5
1 0 2 3
0 1 2 1
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Group E W D L P
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2 1 0 7
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2 0 1 6
Sierra Leone
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0 1 2 1
Group F W D L P
2 1 0 7
2 1 0 7
1 0 2 3
0 0 3 0