Egypt eye q-finals on greener pastures

Youssef Msakni scoring Tunisia's second goal past Zimbabwe's Willard Katsande and Knowledge Musona to set his side on course for a 4-2 Africa Cup of Nations victory, sealing their place in the quarter-finals as Group B runners-up.
Youssef Msakni scoring Tunisia's second goal past Zimbabwe's Willard Katsande and Knowledge Musona to set his side on course for a 4-2 Africa Cup of Nations victory, sealing their place in the quarter-finals as Group B runners-up.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

PORT-GENTIL (Gabon) • Seven-time champions Egypt face Ghana in Port-Gentil today, looking for the result that will see them join their opponents in the Africa Cup of Nations quarter-finals.

Egypt need only draw the game in the Gabonese port city to be certain of progressing to the last eight, although if Mali fail to beat Uganda they will be through anyway.

A win for Hector Cuper's side would allow them to leapfrog the already-qualified Ghana and advance as group winners.

That might not be what they want, however - the group winners will remain in Port-Gentil for the quarter-finals while the runners-up must move to Oyem in the north of the country.

An awful pitch in Port-Gentil has had an adverse impact on the quality of football played there. Heavy rain in the city since the weekend will only add to the problem.

"Everyone wants to play in the other city. No one wants to play in this stadium," Egypt's Ahmed Elmohamad, who plays for English club Hull, said. "But for us we need to win, we want to win the group. It's about getting the points, it's not about the stadium."

On Monday, Tunisia trounced Zimbabwe 4-2 to reach the quarter-finals as star-stacked Algeria were eliminated after the first round.

Naim Sliti, Youssef Msakni, Taha Yassine Khenessi and Wahbi Khazri scored in Libreville as Tunisia became the first side at these finals to score four goals in a match.

Algeria drew 2-2 with a virtual Senegal 'B' side in Franceville at the same time, with star striker Islam Slimani finally finding form to bag a brace. This was the second 2-2 draw for the Algerians after a similar result against Zimbabwe, and a 1-2 loss to neighbours Tunisia in between proved costly.

Many pundits had placed Algeria among the tournament favourites given the presence of stars like new African Footballer of the Year Riyad Mahrez, Slimani, both of English champions Leicester, and FC Porto's Yacine Brahimi.

Pre-tournament fears about the defence proved well founded, however, as they conceded two goals in each group game.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 25, 2017, with the headline 'Egypt eye q-finals on greener pastures'. Print Edition | Subscribe