On Saturday at 8pm BST, AFCON hosts Egypt welcome South Africa to the Cairo International Stadium for their Last 16 meeting. The home side topped Group A by a distance of five points, which is more than any of the other teams who earned the number one position could manage. Seconded by Uganda, they scored five goals and didn’t ship any while winning each match, statistics that are in contrast to South Africa’s campaign as of now. The World Cup hosts of 2010 have won once, lost twice and had a negative goal difference in their bid for Last 16 qualification, ending the group phase with just three points.
Including friendlies, Egypt have won all of their previous five outings and conceded only once, against Guinea. They kicked off the tournament with a win over Zimbabwe through a first half strike from one of their star performers, Trezeguet, assisted by Ayman Ashraf. In their second fixture, it was DR Congo who were providing the challenge. Ahmed El Mohamedy eased any nerves that may have been jangling in twenty-five minutes in, and their outstanding individual Mohamed Salah notched Egypt’s second goal shortly prior to half time. The only action of any note later in the game were three yellow cards, all handed to Egyptian players. Salah again hit the net versus Uganda with a beautiful free kick to see his nation on its way to maximum points from the group, and El Mohamedy doubled their advantage ten minutes afterwards as Ashraf got yet another assist. They are probably the favourites to earn gold in the AFCON, however South Africa will be a stern test for Egypt.
South Africa began the tournament in the worst possible way when Ivory Coast defeated Stuart Baxter’s men by one goal to nil, scored by Jonathan Kodjia little over an hour into the tie. A much needed victory versus Namibia succeeded that result thanks to Bongani Zungu’s strike twenty-two minutes from time, but the score should have been much higher considering the difference in quality between the pair. Their encounter with Morocco was all important as the opposition were looking to top the group and another three points could have seen South Africa finish in second, but it wasn’t to be. The two appeared certain to share the spoils as neither could break the other down, until the final minute when Mbark Boussoufa struck gold with a cool right footed effort. Confidence within the camp is surely took a devastating blow from that result, but they must now pick themselves right back up and go out to beat the hosts against all odds.
Ahmed Hassan, known as Koka, will be unavailable for Egypt due to an ankle injury he picked up last time out. It’s impossible to talk about Egypt’s team news without mentioning Amr Warda and his re-inclusion in the side. He is not expected to play any part here, however if any unexpected injuries occur he may be forced to take to the field once more. We expect Egypt to continue in their 4-2-3-1 formation with Ahmed Hegazy at the back alongside Baher El Mohamedi, while Tarek Hamed and Mohamed Elneny may sit as the deep lying midfielders. Salah, El Said and Trezeguet will connect as a trio in attack behind striker Marwan Mohsen.
The winning formula has only been found once for South Africa, but the fact they’ve got a full squad will be a major plus for the team. In this one, we can see them lining up in a 4-2-3-1, just as was done against Namibia, with Mkhize, Hiatshwayo, Mkhwanazi and Hlanti making up the back four. Alpheus should play beside Vilakazi in the middle, helping control midfield behind Zungu, Zwane and Percy Tau to create forward moves. Lebo Mothiba is likely to start as a lone number nine.
Egypt are yet to see the ball in their net so far, and with South Africa finding chances hard to come by it’s tough to envision a way in which the visitors can break through. For this reason, we think Skybet’s offer of 6/5 for Egypt to win to nil is not a bad price as it’s expected. As well as that, Skybet have Egypt at 1/1 to score 2+ goals, a feat they have achieved in two of their three outings in the AFCON 2019, while South Africa have conceded twice in their three matches. Our third and final tip for this game is Egypt to win by exactly two goals at 7/2 with Skybet. Salah and El Mohamedy have been sharp in front of goal during the tournament and if both are on song, there’ll definitely be more than one goal. South Africa simply won’t have the belief to come back once they go down by one, inevitably leading to a second.