A goal from Mostafa Mohamed gave hosts Egypt a 1-0 win over Mali as the continent's Olympic football qualifying tournament - the U-23 Africa Cup of Nations - got underway on Friday.
In the day's second Group A match, Ghana snatched a late 1-1 draw with Cameroon in Cairo.
Franck Evina, who is on the books of Germany's Bayern Munich, put Cameroon ahead after 59 minutes and substitute Mohammed Habib levelled three minutes from time.
Egypt are desperate to secure a top-three finish and a passport to Tokyo 2020 after the senior national team went out early from the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations - a tournament they also hosted.
Egypt's Mostafa Mohamed, who has been earning rave reviews for his performances with Egyptian club Zamalek, made an immediate impact in the tournament as he got the U-23 host country off to a perfect start against Mali.
Mohamed struck on 29 minutes, powerfully heading an Ahmed Abo Elfetouh cross past Mali goalkeeper Youssouf Koita into the corner of the net.
Fellow Egypt forward Nasser Maher was forced to retire early in the second half with a shoulder injury, but his team-mates comfortably contained Mali to go top of the table.
Cameroon, coached by Indomitable Lions great Rigobert Song, were poised to join Egypt on three points thanks to an Evina goal direct from a free-kick against Ghana.
Evina is on loan to German third tier club KFC Uerdingen 05 this season from Bayern Munich.
Habib salvaged a draw for the Black Meteors by poking the ball past Cameroon goalkeeper Simon Omossola after a deflected long-range shot looped into his path.
Stephane Zobo, who replaced Evina 14 minutes from time, wasted a chance to win the match in stoppage time when he headed a Michael Cheukoua cross wide.
The action in Group B begins on Saturday with a match between Nigeria and the Ivory Coast, followed by South Africa against Zambia.
South Africa have been hampered by the refusal of some domestic clubs to free players ahead of the November 11-19 international window, and will face Zambia with a limited squad.