Pirates’ keeper Ofori has to be on full alert against Mo Salah

Ghana captain and Orlando Pirates keeper Richard Ofori will have to be on top of his game after a defensive blunder in their opening 2023 Africa Cup of Nations match resulted in the Black Stars losing 2-1 to Cape Verde in the last minutes of the game last week.

Ghana, perennial favourites at the Afcon in the years gone by, have a very tough assignment when they face former champions Egypt at the Félix Houphouët-Boigny Stadium in Abidjan on Thursday. Kick-off is at 10pm SA time.

The Group B encounter by the two African giants will be their fifth at the Afcon. The Pharaohs too are limping after they scraped to a 2-2 draw with Mozambique in their first game.

With the Cape Verde match deep in injury time, Ofori had a rush of blood to his head. The Buccaneers shot-stopper left his goalposts, missed a tackle and Cape Verde’s Garry Rodrigues latched onto Gilson Benchimol’s pass and rolled the ball into the empty net for a dramatic win.

Ghana defence needs to be alert

So, Ofori and his defenders will have to be fully alert with the Egyptians seeking their first win of the tournament after they dropped two points against the lowly Mambas. The likes of Liverpool superstar Mo Salah will be hungry for goals and to get their campaign back on the right groove. Egypt are the tournament record holders, having won it seven times.

Both sides have an impressive record in the tournament but have not really lived up to their high standards of late. They have the big stars, but struggle to go all the way in the competition. The Pharaohs dominated Africa when they won the tournament three times in a row in 2006 (in Egypt), 2008 (Ghana) and 2010 in Angola. They were also finalists in 2017 and 2021. 

Egypt’s unconvincing showing against Mozambique in the second half left a lot to be desired and Ghana’s shock defeat also raised a lot of questions, more so that they have big stars playing in top leagues in Europe. So, the two countries go into the match with nothing else but victory in their sights, to avoid first round elimination.

Hughton shrugs off attack

Meanwhile, Ghana coach Chris Hughton said he was thankful for messages of support received after an angry supporter tried to attack him at the team hotel after the Cape Verde loss. The angry fan was apprehended by the security guards. The coach preferred not to dwell on the incident.

“The incident is something that is very much in the past,” Hughton told reporters in Ivory Coast.

“It had a lot of media coverage, so I thank everybody for messages of support, but I think today is a day to look forward to a very competitive game that we have tomorrow,” the former Irish international added.

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