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Tue, 28 Jan 2020 02:02 GMT

Hosts Egypt to Face Mali in AFCON U-23 Opener


Mahmoud Al Assal

Thu, 07 Nov 2019 20:40 GMT

U-23 Africa Cup of Nations kicks off in Egypt on Friday November 8th with the participation of eight of topflight African national teams vying for a place in the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.

The continental tournament will take place in Egypt from November 8th to 22nd with the participation Cameroon, Ghana, Mali, Nigeria, South Africa, Zambia and Côte d'Ivoire national teams playing alongside hosts Egypt.

The top three teams in the AFCON U-23 will represent the continent in the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. The eight teams are divided into two groups. Egypt, Mali, Nigeria and Ivory Coast are in Group A, while Cameroon, Ghana, South Africa and Zambia come in Group B.

The hosts will face Mali in the tournament's opening game on Friday at Cairo international stadium at 19.00 (CLT) Cairo local time, two hours before the second game between Cameroon and Ghana.

The Egyptians national football team coach Shawki Gharib confirmed the players' readiness for the tournament.

"We started preparations for the tournament early, and we played more friendly games with different teams. We are ready for the tournament," Gharib told a press conference on Thursday.

"The game against Mali won't be an easy mission as always the opening game is very difficult," the Egypt coach added.

Egypt’s U-23 national team skipper Ramadan Sobhi also weighed in.

"I hope we will be lucky in this tournament as we will do our best to snatch the title as well as reaching the Olympic Games," Sobhi said during the press conference.

Meanwhile, Mali U-23 coach Fanyeri Diarra said he is expecting the game against the hosts to be difficult for him and his team.

"We have been drawn in a tough group as all the games are expected to be difficult, especially the game against hosts Egypt, who will make use of the fans' and home advantage," Diarra told the game's press conference.

In another game, Cameroon will face Ghana in the first round of Group B late on Friday. Ghana coach Ibrahim Tanko said that he arrived in Egypt with a squad full of local-based players because the foreign-based ones, who are currently working overseas, failed to arrive on time for the tournament.

"I tried to resolve the problems of the arrival of the foreign-based players, but their European teams refused to allow them to travel out of FIFA's agenda dates," Tanko told a press conference.

"Finally we managed to arrive in Egypt with our local squad, and we hope to reach our target."

From his side, Cameroon U-23 national team coach Rigobert Song confirmed that his team is also ready for the tournament.

"We are optimistic ahead of the game as we are ready to achieve our target from the tournament," Song said.