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AFCON: A battle royal is looming as Egypt prepares to take on fellow continental heavyweights Ghana in what will be a match that will decide the fate of the two footballing giants
sokapro-AFCON: A battle royal is looming as Egypt prepares to take on fellow continental heavyweights Ghana in what will be a match that will decide the fate of the two footballing giants

Egypt and Ghana will face off in Group B of the Africa Cup of Nations on tonight at the Stade Felix Houphouet-Boigny.

While Egypt and Ghana are the odds-on favourites to win the group, a disappointing first-day performance has put them under pressure to achieve victory here, and we expect an exciting match tonight. A record seven times  African champions Egypt were on the verge of one of the biggest upsets in the opening round of the 2023 AFCON, trailing Mozambique in the last minutes of stoppage time. Mozambique, ranked 111th in the latest FIFA World Rankings, put on a magnificent team performance, with Witi and Clesio Bauque scoring in three minutes to cancel out Mostafa Mohammed's first-half opening and put Os Mambas ahead 2-1. However, Liverpool's Mohamed Salah came up big for the Pharaohs, keeping his cool under pressure and converting a 97th-minute penalty to spare their blushes and force a sharing of the spoils. 

Before that, Egypt was on a three-game winning streak, scoring ten goals and holding three clean sheets, which propelled them to first place in Group A of the World Cup qualifiers. Rui Vitoria's men have gone six consecutive games without defeat across all competitions, claiming four wins and two draws since last September's 3-1 friendly defeat against Tunisia, and will now look to avoid failing to win their first two games at the AFCON finals for the first time in over 30 years. Egypt's last failure to win their first two group-stage games at the event was in 1992 when they lost 1-0 to Zambia before losing 1-0 to tonight's opponents, Ghana. 

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Ghana had a successful qualification campaign, finishing as one of only three unbeaten nations, with three wins and three draws to earn 12 points and top spot in Group E. However, they suffered an even worse fate than Egypt in their group's curtain-raiser, losing 2-1 to rank outsiders Cape Verde on Sunday evening. Alexander Djiku scored his first goal for Ghana shortly before the hour mark, canceling out Jamiro Monteiro's first-half opener, but Garry Rodrigues scored in the 92nd minute to give the Blue Sharks a well-deserved win. This was yet another disappointing AFCON outcome for the four-time winners, who have now lost three and drawn two of their past five matches in the tournament since defeating Guinea-Bissau 2-0 in 2019.

Chris Hughton's side similarly lost their first game in Cameroon two years ago, 1-0 to Morocco, before being upset 3-2 by newcomers Comoros, bringing their campaign to an end in the group stage. While Ghana looks to avoid three consecutive AFCON losses for the first time, they have lost three of their last four games against Egypt, except for a 1-1 tie in the World Cup qualifiers in November 2017. The West African giant has been defeated in the last two AFCON meetings between the two nations, first in 2010 when they were beaten 1-0 in the final, and most recently in 2017 when the Pharaohs won 1-0 in the group stages.

(Image: Khel Now)