Egypt look ready to thrill the home fans when the tournament kicks off in Cairo on Friday night.
Mohamed Salah set to be the key man
Host nation Egypt are 6.00 favorites to win the African Nations Cup and their attempts to lift the trophy for a record eighth time begin in front of a 75،000 full house at the Cairo International Stadium on Friday night.
The Pharaohs' preparations for the tournament have run smoothly and culminated in a 3-1 final-friendly win over Guinea last Sunday night. That victory meant that Egypt have won six، drawn one and lost only one of eight internationals since their first-round elimination from the World Cup last year.
Most of the home fans' hopes rest with Mo Salah. After injury undermined the Liverpool striker's chances of having a lasting impact in Russia 12 months ago، Salah is determined to make his mark this time. He realizes he has a unique opportunity to write his name into the history books in front of an adoring public. He looked fit، fresh and ready as a substitute in the win against Guinea.
Lack of experience in Zimbabwe ranks
Egypt is 1.22 to win on the night. These odds look fair given the hosts' obvious superiority، the home advantage they'll enjoy and the absence of any problems in the Egypt camp on the eve of the tournament. As the price on a home win is so short، however، there's far more interest in backing Egypt on the Asian Handicap.
At -1.5&-2.0 in the Asian Handicap market، Egypt is 2.00، meaning you'll make a profit at evens should the hosts win by two or more goals (for a guide to Asian Handicap betting، click here). For inspiration، Egypt may well look back to 2006: that was the last time they hosted the event and they started emphatically on that occasion، thrashing Libya 3-0 in the opening fixture.
Can Zimbabwe provide meaningful resistance? There's little reason to suspect they can. Scroll down through their squad and they look inferior to Egypt in all positions: there's a lack of class، and also experience - no player in their 23-man group has won more than 40 caps. Zimbabwe's recent international form hardly inspires confidence، either: since the start of 2018 their record reads W3-D4-L1 even though they've faced mainly lower-ranking sides.
One crumb of comfort for the underdogs is that opening games often end in draws: six of 10 openers since the start of the millennium have ended in stalemates. Don't bet on that happening this time، however - Egypt simply looks too strong.