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AFCON 2023 Day 2 Preview: Osimhen and Salah set to star

The 2023 Africa Cup of Nations is off and running after hosts Ivory Coast defeated Guinea-Bissau in the opening match on Saturday and now it is time for the competition to hit full gear with three matches on Sunday. Top African stars in action include Victor Osimhen, Mohamed Salah and Mohammed Kudus as Group A and Group B will complete their first round of matches. Read on below for brief previews of all three matches:

Group A: Nigeria vs Equatorial Guinea 14:00 GMT

The expectations are quite low for Nigerian supporters but the Super Eagles can get off to a positive start against the Nzalang Nacional of Equatorial Guinea at the Stade Alassane Ouattara. in Abidjan. While Nigeria have not had good recent results the 2023 AFCON marks the first tournament for the Super Eagles where Victor Osimhen will play an important role after only playing one half at the 2019 edition and missing out completely at the 2021 edition due to an injury.

There are injury issues for Nigeria including the likely absence of Leicester City forward Kelechi Iheanacho and the unlikely involvement of another striker, Paul Onuachu, following his late call to replace the injured Umar Sadiq. Regardless of the absences of Iheanacho, Sadiq and the previous withdrawal of fellow Victor Boniface, Osimhen will lead what looks to be a strong attack that also features winger Moses Simon with Ademola Lookman and Samuel Chukwueze also ready to contribute. The withdrawal of Wilfred Ndidi means that the heart of Nigeria’s midfield will be composed of two players out of the trio of Alhassan Yusuf, Raphael Onyedika and Frank Onyeka.

Equatorial Guinea will also have injury-related absences according to coach Juan Micha but it is not clear which players will miss out. Local media in the country indicated that preparation was not ideal due to a player protest over bonuses that delayed travel to Ivory Coast. The Nzalang Nacional did arrive in Abidjan on Thursday evening after a final preparation match that saw them draw 1-1 with Djibouti in the Equatoguinean capital of Malabo.

Right back Carlos Akapo scored the goal for the Nzalang and he will anchor a strong defense that also includes goalkeeper Jesús Owono. The attack is the weak point for Equatorial Guinea but with Nigeria’s issues at the goalkeeper position and disappointing recent results, there is hope of earning a result considering the senior national team is on an 11-game unbeaten run.

Group B: Egypt vs Mozambique 17:00 GMT

An in-form Egypt team are also in action in Abidjan where they face the Mambas of Mozambique at the Stade Félix Houphouët-Boigny. Egypt have big ambitions for the competition and will face the lowest ranked team in Group B who will be missing star attacker Geny Catamo. Egypt’s final preparation match ended with a 2-0 victory over Tanzania in Cairo while Mozambique played two matches last week against COSAFA regional foes including a 2-0 victory over Lesotho and a 1-1 draw with Botwana.

There is little concern for injuries with The Pharoahs after central defender Ahmed Hegazi was cleared for action, joining a healthy squad whose supporters back home in Egypt expect the team to challenge for and win the trophy. Star Mohamed Salah set up the opening goal against Tanzania and he will lead the attack along with goal scorer Trezeguet and striker Mostafa Mohamed. Al Ahly central defender Mohamed Abdelmonem anchors a strong defense and Arsenal midfielder Mohamed Elneny appears to be healthy and ready to go after little playing time for his club in the first half of the English Premier League season.

Mozambique will be without Sporting CP winger Geny Catamo due to yellow card accumulation from qualifying, something that head coach Chiquinho Conde criticized as an unjust rule that should not apply for the finals. Experienced center back Mexer is likely to partner with Kaizer Chiefs player Edmilson Dove in the heart of the defense and Atlético Madrid left back Reinildo Mandava is also a player to watch despite a notable lack of game time in Spain’s La Liga this season.

Catamo is likely to be replaced by either veteran Clésio Baúque or Portugese-based winger Gildo while Witi lines up on the opposite flank. Physically imposing German-born striker Stanley Ratifo started both preparation friendlies and either he or Angola-based Lau King will get the nod to lead the attack. Midfielder Guima is the player to watch along with Domingues, a 40-year-old playmaker who is the captain of the Mambas.

Group B: Ghana v Cape Verde 20:00 GMT

A Ghana team severely low on confidence begins their campaign against Cape Verde who have plenty of experience in their squad. The Black Stars have average less than a goal under head coach Chris Hughton and there are plenty of questions the team must answer with a passionate Ghanaian support watching and many making the short trip west to Ivory Coast. Cape Verde reached the knockout stages at the 2021 edition and are aiming to do it again with a squad that strongly resembles the 2021 team.

Fortunately for Black Stars supporters there are no injury concerns after star playmaker Mohammed Kudus missed out on the team’s latest friendly match, a 0-0 draw with Namibia. Kudus will be needed for the big occasion on Sunday and more is expected of Athletic Bilbao forward Iñaki Williams who has scored only once in fourteen matches since committing to play for the Black Stars while Jordan Ayew has not scored in a competitive match since March 2021 in qualifying for the last edition of the AFCON.

The defense has looked solid for Ghana with Alexander Djiku expected to join forces with likely Daniel Amartey or perhaps Mohammed Salisu. Salis Abdul Samed will anchor the midfield with his ball-winning abilities and could be paired with a fellow defensive presence in Baba Iddrisu or perhaps Elisha Owusu who partnered with Iddrisu against Namibia.

There are no indications of injury in the Cape Verde squad where experience reigns supreme. Nine players in the 26-player squad are over thirty years old and the same key players from the successful campaign are involved as well as head coach Bubista. The Blue Sharks completed their preparations with a 2-0 friendly defeat in Tunisia.

While central defender Roberto “Pico” Lopes returns to bring a physical and experienced presence, Toulouse defender Logan Costa is a player to watch after the 23-year-old born in France elected to represent Cape Verde in 2022. Jamiro Monteiro is a creative player in the midfield with Kenny Rocha Santos and João Paulo deeper lying options who bring quality. Captain Ryan Mendes should be involved in the attack and another veteran, Garry Rodrigues, is another winger with plenty of flair and pace.

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