By Thomas Reynolds
Last Updated: 21st June 2019
Egypt are Africa Cup of Nations 2019 outright betting favourites at 7/2, but despite boasting Liverpool talisman Mohamed Salah and contesting it on home soil they look vulnerable.
The Pharaohs have won the tournament more often than any other side on the continent, but haven’t tasted victory since lifting the trophy for a third successive edition back in 2010.
Having reached the final in Gabon two years ago, expectations will high among the home support, but their representatives failed to top their qualifying group (Cameroon were originally supposed to host), while their squad has nowhere near the depth of talent boasted by some of their rivals.
In addition it’s highly likely Salah, their world class talisman, is short of peak energy levels after playing two consecutive seasons involving 55-plus games and summer International competition.
Beyond that, inoffensive Arsenal midfielder Mohamed Elneny is arguably the biggest name available to Javier Aguirre, the majority of whose squad ply their trade on home soil.
So, despite victories in both previous tournaments they’ve hosted, Egypt are eminently opposable, but which nation looks best equipped to carry off the biggest heist on their soil since Howard Carter helped himself to the contents of Tutankhamun’s tomb?
Africa Cup of Nations 2019 betting tip: Ivory Coast @ 9/2
The Elephants’ previous gilded cohort featured such celebrated talents as Didier Drogba, the Toure brothers and Gervinho.
Ibrahim Kamara’s 2019 squad looks to be replete with at least three young talents who could scale similar heights, alongside several other established operators that give it a well-reinforced feel.
Nicolas Pepe has come off a breakthrough Ligue 1 campaign, in which only Kylian Mbappe scored more and Teji Savannier made more goals than the 24-year-old.
With Crystal Palace livewire Wilfried Zaha on the other wing, the full-backs union may want to make counselling services available from the group stage onwards.
In defensive midfield Kamara can call upon the 21-year-old Ibrahim Sangare, who averaged more tackles than all bar one player in the French top flight last term, eliciting overtures from Barcelona.
Sangare could form a thrillingly youthful engine room alongside 22-year-old AC Milan box-to-box beast Franck Kessie, while the pair should be ably abetted by Fulham playmaker Jean-Michael Seri.
Supposedly defence is the Ivorians’ weakest suit, but even here they have a Champions League finalist full-back in Serge Aurier, not to mention Wilfried Kanon, who played every game en route to victory in the 2015 tournament at either centre-half or left-back and is still only 25.
Why not Senegal, Algeria or Morocco?
If the Elephants have a week spot positionally, so to do Senegal (9/2), the attacking-midfielder-rich Algerians (12/1) and Morocco (10/1), the side currently in possession of the most successful AFCON gaffer since Hassan ‘The Boss’ Shehata, two-time winner Herve Renard.
The Lions of Teranga, are lacking creativity in midfield, while the Algerians have zilch in the name of top-level defenders and the Moroccans are missing an instinctive goalscorer to add end product to the ingenuity of Hakim Ziyech, Sofiane Boufal and Younes Belhanda.