Mo Salah’s good form for his club Liverpool has many pundits tipping them to take the whole show. There is more to international soccer tournaments than individual brilliance. Players who play together a few games a year have to get it right in a short space of time and that doesn’t always work out. Nigeria had a tumultuous build up to Afcon with the status of their German coach Gernot Rohr up in the air since the last World Cup qualifiers last month. The Nigerian soccer federation ended up sacking him after in December after allegations of failing to “control” the big egos in the dressing room surfaced. They replaced him with Augustine Eguavoen,who has taken charge of the senior and youth sides before, to take charge during Afcon only. The Nigerian attack is the most fearsome in my own opinion at AFCON. Kelechi Iheanacho, Chukwueze and Union Berlin’s Awoniyi can only be underestimated at the oppositions peril. Leicester’s Iheanacho showed his class with the winner after 30 minutes of play. The control and hit on the half volley on the turn is not an easy skill by any stretch. The time afforded to him by the Egyptians was way too much for my liking.
Egypt are the record winners of the AFCON with 7 but they never showed it in this match. They struggled to create chances with Salah increasingly isolated upfront. Mahmoud Trezeguet of Aston Villa had a subdued game on the right hand side of attack with Nigeria’s right back Aina in top form, he hasn’t played much soccer having been out on a long term injury. Only when his replacement Zizo of Zamalek in Egypt came on did the spark started to appear in the second half. Ahmed Fathi was especially disappointing for the Egyptians. The Pyramids player found dealing with Ndidi a tough afternoon’s work, thus few penetrative passes to Salah were made. Former Real Madrid coach and Manchester United assistant coach Carlos Queiroz who is now coaching Egypt will be happy though with the defense in spite of conceding the goal especially the experienced former West Brom defender Hegazy. Moses Simon of Nigeria was the best player on the pitch was tricky to handle with his dribbling speedy plays on the flanks. The defeat is not a train smash for Egypt. The Group includes Sudan and Guinea-Bissau which are within their capabilities. But it is worrying they don’t have a good attacking creative midfielder.
Group D table