AFCON 2023: Pharaohs of Egypt to test might against Black Stars of Ghana in a titanic at Félix Houphouët Boigny stadium

Posted : 19 January 2024

Félix Houphouët Boigny Stadium in Cote d'Ivoire will surely be a center of attraction as two African football giants, the Pharaohs of Egypt and the Black Stars of Ghana, will tread on the field's grass in a titanic make-or-break battle for the soul of Group B, already tagged as the group of death.


It is instructive to know that the designation of Group B as the group of death holds more significance than the tag itself. The two football heavyweights, the Pharaohs of Egypt and the Black Stars, whom many have touted to dictate the pace and compete for the top position, have been outwitted by the two countries with the underdog tags.


For the seven-time AFCON trophy holders, the Pharaohs of Egypt playing a 2-2 draw against the less fancied Mozambique is inexplicable for many pundits. The unconvincing result has also disrupted predictions.


In the game against Mozambique, Egypt would have faced defeat if not for Mohamed Salah's last-gasp penalty, saving them from a shocking defeat by Group B minnows Mozambique in Abidjan.


The Black Stars of Ghana suffered a setback by losing their opening match 1-2 to Cape Verde. An even worse fate befell Ghana later that same Sunday evening, leaving a bitter taste in the mouths of commentators.


Alexander Djiku's equalizer seemed to put the underwhelming Black Stars back on track after an early setback. Still, Garry Rodrigues scored a deserved stoppage-time winner, putting his team at the top of the group.


These unfavorable results from the tournament favorites have distorted the equation. The battle will now be more intense in this second match because either of the two teams that lost may be on the next flight back home, regardless of their tag.


If Egypt wins, they will have four points. The Mozambique vs. Cape Verde results could swing either way. If Mozambique wins, they will also have four points. If Cape Verde wins, they will have six points, enough to secure qualification, leaving Ghana, Egypt, and Mozambique to fight for the last slot.


For both teams, it is a make-or-break situation. Egypt appears to be more stable with no injury concerns, especially knowing they have a better head-to-head record against the Black Stars. They have defeated them 12 times in 23 meetings, while Ghana has only beaten the Pharaohs five times, with the other six matches ending in a draw.


The main concern for the Black Stars of Ghana is Mohammed Kudus, who did not feature against Cape Verde due to an injury sustained while playing for his English club, West Ham United. Kudus has returned to training and will be assessed ahead of kick-off.


The Black Stars are also missing the services of their influential midfielder, Thomas Partey, due to another injury issue.


Heading into the titanic battle, both old warhorses have performed below expectations, so they will need to step up. While the Pharaohs of Egypt's display against Mozambique appears to be a minor blip that could be corrected swiftly, for Ghana, such a flat and disappointing performance is nothing new.


It has been a proper struggle for Hughton so far, and the Black Stars have won just one of their last five games, a 1-0 victory over minnows Madagascar in World Cup qualifying back in November.


For the Pharaohs to triumph, there are high expectations on the influential captain, Mo Salah, and others to kick the ball hard enough at the expense of Ghana, who would be in real trouble after back-to-back defeats ahead of their final group clash with Mozambique on Monday night.

 

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