Hosts Egypt started their 2019 Africa Cup of Nations campaign on Friday with a narrow 1-0 win against Zimbabwe in their Group A match played at the Cairo International Stadium in Cairo.
Midfielder Mahmoud ‘Trezeguet’ Hassan, who plays for Turkish side Kasimpasa, netted the only goal of the game four minutes before halftime.
The game kicked off following a stunning 30-minute opening ceremony that included huge pyramids on the pitch, the unveiling of a giant replica of the trophy and ended in a massive fireworks display.
The Pharaohs dominated the game controlling possession and registering more attempts on goal than Zimbabwe did but could not add to their tally. Zimbabwe goalkeeper Edmore Sibanda made three good saves during the game to deny Marwan Mohsen, Abdallah Said and Mohamed Salah.
Zimbabwe had a golden chance to take the lead on 36 minutes when quick thinking from a free-kick allowed Khama Billiat to run in behind the Egyptian defence but goalkeeper Mohamed El Shenawy was quick off his line to block the attempt.
Zimbabwe, despite not scoring or seriously troubling Egypt thereafter, did enough to offer their fans hope of getting results and, possibly, advancing from the group.
A point of concern for Zimbabwe was Sibanda coming off with an injury following a collision with Egypt’s Mohsen. Sibanda was replaced by Elvis Chipezeze with 10 minutes to play. Chipezeze pulled off a save to deny Salah four minutes from time.
Egypt, runners-up in the 2017 edition, are bidding to win a record-extending eighth AFCON title. This is also the fifth time Egypt is hosting the tournament.
Group A’s other teams, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda, play each other later on Saturday at the same venue.
Also on Saturday, in Group B, Nigeria begin their campaign against debutantes Burundi in Alexandria while Guinea take on the second of three tournament debutantes Madagascar also in Alexandria.