Preview: Egypt face first real AFCON test in last-16 meeting with S.Africa

Ahram Online , Friday 5 Jul 2019,
Abdallah El Said
Egypt's Abdallah El Said in action with Uganda's Micheal Azira (Photo: REUTERS)

The title credentials of hosts Egypt will be put to their first real test when they meet South Africa in the African Cup of Nations last 16 on Saturday, with coach Javier Aguirre determined to silence doubters.

On paper, the Pharaohs advanced to the knockout stage in emphatic fashion, chalking up three wins, scoring five goals and conceding none to top Group A with maximum nine points.

However, the manner of their victories over unfancied opponents Zimbabwe, DR Congo and Uganda was unimpressive to say the least, with Egypt often struggling to create openings.

They also showed signs of defensive weaknesses despite keeping a clean sheet in the three games, raising alarm bells as to whether they are capable of clinching a record-extending eight title.

But Aguirre dismissed criticism of his side, saying they have the sufficient firepower to slice open opposing backlines.

"We have scored goals in 10 of the 11 matches since I have been in charge It's very difficult to win each match 5-0, very difficult," the Mexican told a news conference on Friday.

"All the players have the same idea when they play against Egypt -- that they have nothing to lose. That's the way they play against us -- we are playing at home, we are the favourites, we have Salah, and they have nothing to lose.

"It's very important that we know how to handle this situation."

South Africa reached the round of 16 as one of the best third-placed sides, having collected three points in Group D, with Morocco and Cote d'voire occupying the first two spots.

Egypt's last competitive games against South Africa were in the 2012 Nations Cup qualifiers, with the Bafana Bafana defeating them 1-0 at home before holding them to a 0-0 draw on the road.

Egypt won the 1998 Nations Cup in Burkina Faso after beating South Africa 2-0 in the final.

"It's a great challenge. It's obvious that all the players are looking forward to reach advanced stages," South Africa coach Stuart Baxter said.

"We now have the chance to face the hosts in front of large number of supporters. This is a time where we have to stand tall and look forward to overcome this obstacle."

Egypt will miss striker Ahmed Kouka, who was injured in the final group-stage game against Uganda, but they welcome back winger Amr Warda, who was briefly suspended for disciplinary reasons.

South Africa will have to do without attacking midfielder Themba Zwane due to automatic suspension.

(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO_Sports and on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports.)


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