Hosts Egypt search for qualification against DR Congo Leopards

Trezeguet of Egypt (l) celebrates goal  during the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations Finals football match between Egypt and Zimbabwe at the Cairo International Stadium, Cairo, Egypt on 21 June 2019 ©BackpagePix

Hosts Egypt are looking to guarantee their knockout stages place when they lock horns with Democratic Republic of the Congo Leopards as both sides convene their Group A match day 2.

The Pharaohs opened the tournament with a hard fought 1-0 victory over Zimbabwe in front of 70,000 supporters at the Cairo International Stadium, a number most likely to be repeated this Wednesday as the hosts are thirsty for a record extending eighth AFCON title. Meanwhile DR Congo succumbed to an unexpected 2-0 defeat against Uganda 24 hours later at the same venue.

While not convincing most of their die-hard fans with their opening game performance, Egypt coach Javier Aguirre looks for what matters most, the three points. “We had some defects especially in the second half, but what’s important is that we started the campaign with a win”, the Mexican tactician said after the opening game.

While defender Ahmed Hegazi might be doubtful after having a head injury against Zimbabwe, it’s most likely that Aguirre will field an unchanged lineup on Wednesday, with Liverpool superstar Mohamed Salah once again being the man to watch for.

Team take water break during the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations Finals football match between DR Congo and Uganda  at the Cairo International Stadium, Cairo, Egypt on 22 June 2019 ©Gavin Barker/BackpagePix

On the other hand, DR Congo enters the game knowing well that another defeat can see them facing an early elimination threat. The Leopards who were favorites to join hosts Egypt to the knockout stages, but they were shocked by Uganda Cranes on Saturday.

“We had a bad game and deserved to lose against Uganda. Now we have to do it the hard way”, admitted DR Congo Florent Ibenge.

It’s the fourth time in AFCON history both sides lock horns together, and ironically three of them being in Egypt.

Previous AFCON meetings

11.02.1970     Wad Madani  Egypt 1-0 DR Congo

09.03.1974     Cairo              Egypt 2-3 DR Congo

03.02.2006     Cairo              Egypt 4-1 DR Congo

What they said

Javier Aguirre (Coach, Egypt)

We are ready to face DR Congo. All the players are ready physically and technically. We respect DR Congo much and have done our homework studying them. Our target is the three points to qualify to the next round. Against Zimbabwe we had many chances but only scored once. We are working on correcting our mistakes.

DR Congo could have done more in their first game, same for us against Zimbabwe. I hope we could have a better performance. Hegazi is ready for the match after his head injury against Zimbabwe.

We are a team and we don’t rely on a single play.

Ahmed Elmohamady (Captain, Egypt)

We forgot all about Zimbabwe and started preparing for DR Congo. We are focused to win despite we know it is going to be a tough mission.

All players are focused and nothing will distract us from our mission. (Mohamed) Salah knows well his mission with the team and he is a good addition for us, without any pressure on him or on the team.

Florent Ibenge (Coach, DR Congo)

Losing the first match was difficult for us, but we have to forget that now. We resumed our training and are focused on our match which is very important. Against Uganda we made some mistakes and we were not competitive enough to win. We worked on our defects. Egypt is a different match and we will have a new strategy as we need to win. It’s going to be a very difficult game for us but we will do our best. We will play to have the best result despite the fact that Egypt is playing at home. We will not adopt a defensive method because we want to qualify.

 Youssuf Mulumbu (Captain, DR Congo)

We spoke about the first game, and the most important after an unexpected defeat like that is to react and have a good game against hosts Egypt because we want to qualify to the next round. It was difficulty for us to lose the first match but we worked as a team with the coach and will do our best tomorrow.