Egypt v DR Congo: AFCON hosts ponder Salah experiment with last 16 in sight
Egypt will consider using Mohamed Salah as a striker against the Democratic Republic of Congo as they eye a place in the last 16 of the Africa Cup of Nations.
The tournament hosts missed a number of good chances in their Group A opener against Zimbabwe, with Salah among those to be frustrated by inspired opposition keeper Edmore Sibanda.
But Egypt's other talented wideman, Kasimpasa ace Trezeguet, ensured the Pharaohs' profligacy would not cost them as his strike shortly before half-time earned his side a 1-0 win in Cairo.
Liverpool star Salah was moved from the right-hand side into the middle during the second half to little effect, but coach Javier Aguirre may prolong that experiment against DR Congo.
"We considered using him as a striker against Zimbabwe from the game's start, but Salah was not in top form physically due to his long season with Liverpool, so he started in his regular post," assistant coach Tito Garcia revealed.
"Salah, with his great capacities, is capable of playing in any position and performing well."
Egypt, the Africa Cup of Nations' most successful side with seven previous titles, can close in on a place in the knockout stages with victory over a DR Congo side humbled 2-0 by Uganda in their opening fixture.
Captain Youssouf Mulumbu apologised to supporters for the "humiliating" defeat to a team ranked 80th in the world and previously without a win in the tournament since 1978.
And head coach Florent Ibenge concedes his side now have a mountain to climb if they are to advance, as they aim to avoid back-to-back group-stage losses for the first time since the 2004 edition.
"We had a bad game and deserved to lose against Uganda. Now we have to do it the hard way," Ibenge said.
"It's going to be a very difficult game for us, but we will do our best. We will play to have the best result despite the fact Egypt are playing at home. We will not adopt a defensive method, because we want to qualify."
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Egypt - Mohamed Salah
Salah may have fired a blank against Zimbabwe, but he has been involved in four of Egypt's last six goals in the Africa Cup of Nations - two of his own and two assists.
DR Congo - Cedric Bakambu
Bakambu boasted a good goal return during his time with Bursaspor and Villarreal in European football. Now scoring regularly in the Chinese Super League with Beijing Guoan, the France-born striker will be keen to get off the mark on Wednesday after disappointing against Uganda.
KEY OPTA FACTS
- Egypt have won two of their three games against DR Congo in the Africa Cup of Nations (L1).
- DR Congo are the only team to have eliminated Egypt at an African Cup of Nations when they have hosted the competition. It was in the semi-final of the 1974 edition (3-2), when the Leopards last won the AFCON.
- Egypt have lost only one of their last 26 games in the Africa Cup of Nations (W19 D6) - the 2017 final against Cameroon.