Elephants’ test for Egypt

Ivory Coast’s Nicolas Pepe scores against Algeria to send the defending champions out of the Africa Cup of Nations. PHOTO | AFP

Given their pedigree at the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon), any match between Egypt and Ivory Coast ought to be a final.

The North African side has won the championship the most times - seven, while Ivory Coast won it in 1992 and 2015.

But the two sides face-off at the last 16 stage at the Japoma Stadium, Douala in Cameroon tonight.

Egypt, even with Liverpool star man Mohamed Salah, have barely shown the signs of a record title winner.

The Pharaohs lost their Group D opener 1-0 to Nigeria, where Carlos Queiroz’s side barely took charge.

In the ensuing 1-0 wins over Guinea-Bissau and Sudan, Egypt still was far from convincing. Salah struck the winner against Bissau but the 29-year-old wasn’t electric.

In England, Salah leads the Premier League charts with 16 goals and another nine assists. He is actually tipped by many to win the Ballon d’Or but with Manchester City crawling away atop, winning the Afcon should bolster his chances.

However, his combination with Mostafa Mohamed and Omar Marmoush hasn’t been as potent. Now, Portuguese coach Queiroz should be contemplating Zizo, Trézéguet, Marwan Hamdy and Mohamed Sherif as options to breach the Elephants’ backline.

And that is important because Patrice Beaumelle’s men sailed through comfortably in the group stages, beating Equatorial Guinea 1-0, an entertaining 2-all draw with Sierra Leone before putting title holders Algeria to the sword, 3-1.

Furthermore, Ivory Coast is motivated to revenge against Egypt for the 4-1 loss in the 2008 semi-final and 4-2 penalty shootout defeat in 2006.

Winners next opponent 

Beaumelle has a well-oiled unit with Nicolas Pepe and Sebastien Haller leading his line, and Wilfried Zaha, Max Gradel and Maxwel Cornet available too.

The winner will face the victor between Mali and Equatorial Guinea who clash in Limbe later tonight.

Meanwhile, at least eight people died while 38 others sustained injuries in a crush outside the Olembe Stadium in Yaounde before Cameroon eliminated Comoros on Tuesday night.

Clips of videos captured frantic scenes as fans fought their way through the gates to access the stadium

Cameroonian President Paul Biya has since ordered an investigation into the crush and sent his “deepest condolences” to the victims’ families, according to the BBC. Similarly, the Confederation of African Football has also launched its own investigation.

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