Host Egypt makes it cleared by winning the opening match by beating Zimbabwe in the opening game of the tournament in Cairo.
Egypt 1 :0 Zimbabwe
Mahmoud Trezeguet scored the main goal of the game with a twisted completed just before half time.
Liverpool forward Mo Salah verged on multiplying his side’s lead in the second half yet his low drive was kept out by Zimbabwe guardian Edmore Sibanda.
Ovidy Karuru had Zimbabwe’s most obvious opportunity with a 30-yard strike late on.
The current year’s competition is the greatest Africa Cup of Nations ever with 24 groups, and the first to be played in Europe’s mid year.
It got off to a stupendous begin, with the fans inside the 75,000 limit Cairo International Stadium treated to an eye-finding opening service that highlighted mammoth pyramids on the pitch, exquisite artists framing the state of a pharaoh’s face and coming full circle in a gigantic firecrackers show.
However, the game itself neglected to coordinate that dimension of shimmer, with Egypt commanding for enormous periods without alarming Sibanda in the Zimbabwe goal frequently.
Salah was a lively presence in the first half but put a number of efforts wide of goal and while he did manage to get one shot on target before the interval it was a routine save for Sibanda.
Just as Zimbabwe were enjoying their best spell of half, Egypt took the lead. A neat one-two allowed Trezeguet to break into the box before cutting inside his marker and then despatching a clinical effort into the far corner.
From then on Egypt were comfortable rather than dominant.
Salah forced a decent save out of Sibanda midway through the second half after being picked out by Trezeguet’s defence-splitting pass.
The Liverpool man then raced through just before full time but was this time denied by substitute goalkeeper Elvis Chipezeze, who had come on for the injured Sibanda with 10 minutes to go.
The win puts Egypt top of Group A, which also contains DR Congo and Uganda. Those two sides face each other on Saturday at the same ground.
Egypt needs to improve – analysis
Fireworks were abundant before kick-off but Egypt netted only once in the first half. The Pharaohs could have scored very early on but afterwards the pace of the game declined gradually but it was crucial for the morale of fans and the players to get to half time with the lead.
However, Trezeguet’s goal didn’t give the boost to the performance that was perhaps expected in the second half. The team looked even slower and lacked the rhythm needed to create a threat to the Zimbabwe goal.
In the end, it was an important but unconvincing win for the hosts with lots of areas for improvement. Meanwhile, Zimbabwe’s performance should give them hope of competing for a place in the second round.