Egypt looks to overpower South Africa

Egypt will start as clear favourites for their 2019 Africa Cup of Nations round of 16 clash against South Africa at the Cairo International Stadium today.

The Pharaohs enjoyed a perfect record in group A of the competition, racking up three successive wins over Zimbabwe, DR Congo and Uganda to top the standings – and without conceding a single goal in the process.

Yet there is a sense that we have yet to see the best of Coach Javier Aguirre’s team. The brilliance of world-class forward Mohamed Salah has been on show, but the technical and tactical dominance which has characterised great Pharaohs teams of the past has yet to fully surface.

The North Africans will hope that the challenge of knockout football forces their players to raise the level of performance and breed belief that a record-extending eighth Nations Cup title is on its way.

Their opponents are lucky to have even qualified for the round of 16. South Africa finished third in group D behind Morocco and Cote d’Ivoire and their record was only just good enough to earn a spot as one of the four ‘lucky losers’ to advance into the knockout phase.

Bafana Bafana will need to take a massive step forward in their game if they are to offer a challenge to Egypt, and coach Stuart Baxter will need to take a more proactive tactical approach than was seen in the meek 1-0 loss to Morocco earlier in the week.

South Africa have the potential to upset the host nation, especially if they can get the mercurial Percy Tau running at Egypt’s defence, but dominating the midfield and keeping an eye on Salah at the other end will be major stumbling blocks to their hopes.

In head-to-head stats, Egypt and South Africa have met in 11 previous matches. Bafana have claimed six wins compared to the Pharaohs’ four, while one game has been drawn. The teams’ most recent meeting was an international friendly in Johannesburg in September 2016 which the hosts won 1-0.

Meanwhile, Nigeria defender William Troost-Ekong said the shock 2-0 group stage defeat by Madagascar was providing extra motivation for the team ahead of today’s clash with defending Africa Cup of Nations champions, Cameroon.

William Troost-Ekong – Nigeria

The Super Eagles won their first two games in Alexandria but were surprisingly pipped to top spot in group B by newcomers Madagascar after an underwhelming display in their final match.

“Everyone was upset about the last game against Madagascar so I think everyone has that extra motivation. It’s do or die because we know we have to do everything to stay in the tournament,” Troost-Ekong told reporters yesterday ahead of the last-16 tie.

“It’s going to be a tough game against Cameroon. We faced them in the 2018 World Cup qualifiers and they might be out for revenge so we have to be ready for them.”

The Udinese centre-back started the opening 1-0 victory over Burundi and was recalled for the Madagascar game, having sat out the 1-0 win over Guinea that secured qualification for the knockout phase.

“We’ve been in this situation before when we’ve lost games when we might have been favourites beforehand. The same thing happened at home versus South Africa at the start of qualifying. Games like that happen,” said Troost-Ekong.

“I think everyone now has woken up from that game. I don’t think anyone was satisfied from that performance. So we have to be very driven to show Nigeria and Africa that we feel otherwise. If you need motivation for this game you’re probably not in the right mindset. We’re going to be very eager to prove a point.”-Supersport

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