Amakhosi defender Edmilson Dove put in a masterful performance in Mozambique’s opening match of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) against Egypt on Sunday, as the Mambas came agonisingly close to upsetting the Pharaohs in their Group B encounter at the Felix Houphouet Boigny stadium in Abidjan, Ivory Coast.
The 7-time African champions needed a controversial stoppage-time penalty from Mohamed Salah to salvage a 2-2 draw, after the Mambas had come from behind to lead through goals from Witiness Quembo and Clesio Bauque, having fallen behind after only two minutes to a Mostapha Mohamed strike.
Dove was a standout at the back for Mozambique, repeatedly repelling waves of Egyptian attacks, as they tried vainly to hold on for what would have been their first-ever victory at an Afcon tournament.
Mozambique become the fifth different country to be represented by a Kaizer Chiefs player at an Afcon finals tournament, with others having turned out for Madagascar, Nigeria, Ghana (although the player did not actually feature in any match), Zimbabwe and, of course, South Africa at previous events.
Speaking to www.kaizerchiefs.com after the final whistle, Dove said, “We knew it wasn’t going to be an easy game. Obviously we were playing one of the best national teams in Africa, but our coach told us at halftime to keep believing in ourselves and the process we have been working on throughout the entire qualification campaign, and we came out for the second half with some confidence and a desire to put in more effort, and we turned things around.
“Obviously, we wanted to take all three points, but in the end, a draw is still a positive outcome and now our focus shifts to our two remaining games.”
The 29-year-old, making his debut at an Afcon finals, marshalled the Mozambican defence like a general against an opponent containing the firepower of world-class talent such as Liverpool star, Salah, whom they kept relatively quiet throughout the match.
“We had a game plan,” Dove elaborated, “and our coach gave us instructions on how to defend as a team. It was mostly about us; how we must operate as a unit in defence and attack.”
Mozambique’s next mission is against Cape Verde, in what becomes a make-or-break assignment for them after Tubarões Azuis (the Blue Sharks) won a shock 2-1 victory over Ghana in their opener yesterday.
“It is going to be very tough against Cape Verde,” Dove admitted, “We have played them before and they are improving a lot, but our performance against Egypt has given us confidence to go into the game with a positive mindset.”
The match between Mozambique and Cape Verde takes place on Thursday, 18 January at the Felix Houphouet Boigny stadium in Abidjan, kicking off at 16:00 (SA time).