By Agozie Okolo
The sorrows of the Zimbabweans started early on the 2nd minute, when T. Hamad picked a pass and laid it one time for Salah on the right side of the pitch, who flashed a shot across the Zimbabwean goal. Meanwhile, it was not up to 3 mins after, M. Salah and Trezeguet executed a beautiful one –two pass around the Zimbabwean defence, but unfortunately Trezeguet final ball was a tad bit heavy and the opportunity was lost. I taught that the West Africans are in for a proper schooling. That they conceded only one goal – a brilliant one at that- is a testament of their growth in the match.
After the opening 15 minutes of action, the Egyptians and particularly Salah was no longer having a lot of joy in their opponent’s final third. The back four repelled everything that was being thrown at it. The supply line to Salah was well and truly blocked. The Liverpool hit man was only grasping at long passes from the defence, and those are far and in between.
Moving further and talking about Zimbabwe growing in strenght in the Match, the Pharaohs introduced W. Soliman- who was supposed to be very dangerous- but he was limited to a few touches and created no chance.
Maybe we should look into the Zimbabweans attacks in the match. Nakamba played a short free kick to Biliat who took the ball, then make some run before hitting the ball high and wide towards the Egyptians goal. This summarizes their attack all evening, bar one routine shot that was played straight to the keeper. The Warriors can’t string two passes together in the Egyptians final third. It is either their passes are over hit or played high and wide. I wonder how you score with that strategy.
I told myself that that if the Zimbabweans were able to stop Salah from scoring, they might take something out of the match- because every meaningful Egyptian attack came from him- before Trezeguet channelled his inner Messi (the Barcelona not Argentina one) and dribbled past three players before scoring a sublime goal, giving the goalkeeper no chance at all.
African Football is improving but is there any hope for Africa in the future World Cups? Almost everybody that watched the match all predicted a comfortable win for the host. Most people never saw this fine performance coming from the West Africans. Let’s compare the two of them: Egypt has won the AFCON Cup for seven times while Zimbabwe has participated in it only three times before (2004, 2006 and 2017).
Meanwhile, the referees need to be commended. They did a peach of a job and were quick to spot all tactical fouls from both teams. The decision not to use VAR in this AFCON is spot on, no unnecessary time wasted viewing incident from all angle.