Egypt and Nigeria face off in their African Cup of Nations Group D opener in Cameroon on Tuesday.
The match at the State Roumde Adjia in Garoua is one the most highly anticipated of the tournament’s group stage fixtures.
Egypt have won the tournament a record seven times, while Nigeria lifted the trophy on three occasions, most recently in 2013.
But Egyptian captain and Liverpool superstar Mohamed Salah said the Super Eagles were to be taken seriously ahead of the game.
“I think they [Nigeria] are a dangerous team. I don’t think we are the first candidate [to win] this tournament but we’ll do our best to win it,” said Salah. “We have a good coach, a good team, a very good group.”
Egypt’s last AFCON title came in 2010, a year before Salah made his international debut, but missed out in the 2017 final after defeat to this year’s hosts Cameroon.
Liverpool forward Salah has been in arguably the best form of his career with the Reds, netting 23 goals in 26 appearances so far this season and has been shortlisted for the Best FIFA Men’s Player award.
Salah also said he would “love to win something with Egypt”.
“I think this is the only thing I didn’t win yet. But, I was lucky that we got to the World Cup after 28 years, or maybe 30 years now, but I always say I would love to win something with my country. I came here, I’m with them the national team. I’m proud to wear the shirt. I give my best to the team.
“I win individual awards, that’s not important, the team awards always come first. Hopefully, we can do something this time.”
Tuesday’s opponents Nigeria are currently nine places (36) above Egypt (45) in FIFA’s rankings and have reached the semi-final stage in 14 of their last 16 AFCON appearances.
Tuesday’s match will mark the ninth time that the Pharos and Super Eagles will face each other at the continental tournament – both teams have won on three occasions and drawn twice.
A 1-0 win for Nigeria marked the last time the two sides locked horns in a friendly match in 2019.
Nigeria finished in third place during the 2019 AFCON in Egypt.
Nigerian captain Ahmed Musa expressed optimism ahead of the game, saying his side was determined to go far in the tournament.
“We consider that we are ready, and we are just waiting for tomorrow and hopefully we are going to end up [going] to the final and winning the cup,” said Musa.
“I always give my best when I am called up with the national team. So, playing in the tournament [against Egypt] it is not the same as when we used to play in the [World Cup] qualifiers, that’s why I always give my best when I wear the Nigeria T-shirt.”
“My second AFCON was in Egypt, and we ended up in top position, so as this is my last AFCON. Hopefully, we are going to win the cup because everybody knows the important [importance] of winning the trophy.”