- Egypt reached the final of the last AFCON
- They start their campaign against Mozambique
- Ghana are also keen to impress
Egypt, the record Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) winners start their journey towards their record extending sixth title on Sunday night when they take on Mozambique in a Group B opener at the Felix Houphouet Boigny Stadium in Abidjan.
The Pharaohs last won the title in 2010, and were beaten finalists by Senegal during the last AFCON in Cameroon in 2021. And now, Rui Vitoria’s men are seeking to battle for a similar run, and this time going one better to win the title.
“We have a mission to bring that cup back to Egypt. I believe in the players and the work we are doing. Every match is a final for us,” the tactician said ahead of the opening match on Sunday.
Looking at Mozambique, Vitoria knows they have their work cut out and have to be at their best to battle for a win.
“Mozambique’s national team is very good, and we must be humble. Clarity is an advantage for any champion. We know the first match is crucial for every team; we must be strong and win against Mozambique or any other team we face,” added the coach.
Egypt’s star man is on Mo Salah
All eyes will be on their superstar player Mo Salah to help them battle for the crown. Salah has been in good form in England with Liverpool FC and he hopes he can replicate that form for the national team.
Meanwhile, Ghana’s skipper Andre Ayew hopes to lead the Black Stars to victory as he competes in his eighth career Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Ivory Coast.
The forward believes that they have a good team and says the title is their ultimate ambition and for him as a player, it has always been his dream to help Ghana clinch the crown.
“I have been sitting here a few times for a few years now. The ambition hasn’t changed. Since I started from day one in 2008, I have always had the ambition to make sure that we are able to bring the trophy home one day,” Ayew said.
The captain believes the Black Stars can pick inspiration and lessons from previous campaigns where they have not done well, and says they need to do better this time round.
The Black Stars have won the AFCON four times, but their last conquest was 41years ago, in 1982. Since then, they have been runners up in 1992, 2010 and 2015.
At the last AFCON in 2021, the Black Stars disappointingly exited in the group stages.
“As a team the last tournament was very difficult but being in a lot of tournaments, I think there were a lot of things that happened for it to go that way. But we need to learn from it and make sure that it doesn’t happen again, whether it is on the pitch or off the pitch,” Ayew said.
Kudus also one to watch for Ghana
The Black Stars open their campaign against Cape Verde Sunday night, in a Group B fixture.
Another player who will be keen to star for Ghana is West Ham’s Mohamed Kudus.
Kudus has been a revelation for West Ham since signing from Ajax, and the form he has picked will be vital in Ghana’s campaign in Ivory Coast.
Speaking ahead of the tournament, Kudus says he is always passionate to represent Ghana.
”As a professional player you going to change clubs, it’s very likely that you going to play for a lot of teams but your country and your national team remain the same. So for me to be part of the squad in a country of 30 million is a huge privilege that comes with a lot of responsibilities so I don’t joke with national team football,” Kudus said.
He added; “’It’s a big privilege for me, my family and everyone. There is a lot pressure from the country and you literally playing for the whole nation so representing my country is a big privilege and I always see it a big opportunity to make the people happy so we going to do our best for the country’.”
Ghana kicks off their campaign on Sunday against Cape Verde, a match that Kudus expects to start, despite arriving in camp a bit later than everyone due to a slight injury challenge he picked in his club.