Egypt take on Uganda on Saturday in need of a convincing victory to kick-start their bid for Africa Cup of Nations glory.
The Pharaohs have won the competition on each of their last three appearances in 2006, 2008 and 2010 and hold the overall record of seven titles.
But Egypt have not qualified for the three editions since and, after finally breaking that duck by reaching this tournament, drew their opening match 0-0 against Mali in Port-Gentil, also the venue for the meeting with Uganda.
The Mali match saw Egypt lose goalkeeper Ahmed El Shenawy to injury. With Sherif Ekramy already ruled out of the opener, 44-year-old Essam El Hadary became the oldest player in the history of the tournament and the veteran will be relied upon again here.
Uganda, meanwhile, last qualified for the AFCON in 1978, when they were beaten 2-0 in the final.
The Group D underdogs did not disgrace themselves in their opening match against Ghana, losing 1-0 to Andre Ayew’s first-half penalty and are hoping to pull off a major upset to keep their hopes of progression alive.
“We have worked hard on every aspect of the game but stage fright is natural,” said Uganda head coach Micho Sredojevic.
“We have overcome that and players have quickly recovered. We had a slow start in the first match but steadily made amends in the second half.
“We ought to build from that and this means the match with Egypt is a continuation of the second half with Ghana.”
Focus for tomorrow big game pic.twitter.com/XegpW0lsL6
— Mohamed ELNeny (@ElNennyM) January 20, 2017
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Egypt – Mohamed Elneny
Arsenal’s Mohamed Elneny put in a solid performance in the draw with Mali and is fast approaching 50 caps for his country.
The 24-year-old’s passing accuracy, midfield energy and top-level experience will be crucial if Egypt are to make their quality count against Uganda.
Uganda – Tonny Mawejje
Tonny Mawejje was an impressive performer in Uganda’s opener, topping the team for total attempts, shots on target and passes in the opposition half.
The 30-year-old, who plays his club football for Throttur Reykjavik in Iceland, has 80 caps for his country, making him the current squad’s most experienced player.
KEY OPTA STATS:
– Egypt have won their three previous AFCON encounters with Uganda, all by the same scoreline (2-1).
– The Pharaohs are unbeaten in their last 20 AFCON games (W15 D5), the longest run in the history of the tournament. Their last defeat dates back to January 2004 against Algeria (1-2).
– Egypt have kept a clean sheet in five of their last six games at the AFCON, the only exception coming against Cameroon in their 2010 quarter-final (3-1).
– 1992 was the last time Egypt failed to win any of their opening two games at an AFCON tournament (L2).
– Uganda have lost 13 of their 17 AFCON games (W3 D1), although three of those wins have come in the last six games.
– Uganda have also only kept one clean sheet in 17 games at the AFCON, it was against Morocco in March 1978 (3-0).
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