Seven-time champions, Egypt, face Ghana in Port-Gentil today looking for the result that will see them join their opponents in qualifying for the Africa Cup of Nations quarterfinals.
The Pharaohs need only draw the game, which kicks off at 8pm (1900 GMT), in the Gabonese port city to be certain of progressing to the last eight, although if Mali fail to beat Uganda they will be through anyway.
Meanwhile, a win for Hector Cuper’s side would allow them to leapfrog the already-qualified Black Stars and advance as group winners.That might not be what they want, however – the group winners will remain in Port-Gentil for the quarterfinals while the runners-up must up sticks to Oyem in the north of the country.
An awful pitch in Port-Gentil has had an adverse impact on the quality of the football played there and heavy rain in the city since the weekend will only add to the problem.
“Everyone wants to play in the other city. No one wants to play in this stadium,” Egypt’s Ahmed Elmohamady admitted to AFP.“But for us we need to win, we want to win the group. It’s about getting the points, it’s not about the stadium.”
Elmohamady, of Hull City, played when Egypt beat Ghana 1-0 in the 2010 final in Angola to win a third successive Cup of Nations final.
More recently the Black Stars triumphed 6-1 in a World Cup qualifier in October 2013, but Egypt then won 2-0 in a 2018 World Cup qualifier last November.
While Egypt have a doubt over full-back Mohamed Abdel-Shafi and 44-year-old Essam El Hadary remains their only fit goalkeeper, Ghana coach Avram Grant may be tempted to rest some first-choice players.