Al-Ahram Weekly Online
28 June - 4 July 2001
Issue No.540
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875 Current issue | Previous issue | Site map

Saturday night fever

The Egypt-Morocco World Cup qualifier over the weekend is sure to bring spectators of both countries to fever pitch. Nashwa Abdel-Tawab previews the highly-anticipated meeting

Egypt and Morocco will provide North African fireworks when they clash in Casablanca on Saturday in a match which could decide who goes to next year's World Cup.

With 12 points, Morocco is in first place in Group C. Egypt and Senegal follow with nine points each but Senegal leads on goal difference. Morocco and Senegal have two matches left while Egypt has three. Algeria and Namibia, the two other teams in the group, are effectively out of the running. Only the group winner will make it to Japan and South Korea.

History books will say Morocco has the better chance of qualifying, having gone to the World Cup four times as opposed to Egypt's two appearances. The Atlas Lions prevented the Pharaohs from qualifying twice, standing in their way in 1982 and 1986. In addition, Egypt has never beaten Morocco at its home ground.

Adding to Egypt's obstacles is the sizable number of key players who are out of Saturday's line-up. Coach Mahmoud El-Gohari excluded Hossam Hassan and Hazem Emam following sub-par performances. Defender Samir Kamouna will also be missing after being suspended for one year by the Egyptian Soccer Federation in Egypt's Cup final. Another defender, Ibrahim Said, collected his second yellow card against Senegal. In contrast, Morocco comes into the game at full strength.

One factor in Egypt's favour is the schedule. Following Morocco, it will play no-hopers Namibia and Algeria while Morocco will play a potential decider in Dakar against a confident Senegalese squad, which is improving with every game.

And there is nothing like the perennial optimism of Egyptian coach Mahmoud El-Gohari to boost team spirits. "I have a promising team that can threaten the Moroccans," said El-Gohari. "I'm concentrating on correcting mistakes of the past and not repeating them. We want a win and we're working on it."

"They have done a great job in adopting defensive plans and attacking tactics and with some luck we'll make it to the finals. I drew up a plan for the African Nations Cup. It paid off and I think it will pay off again," El-Gohari added.

The team trained in Ismailia for a week before flying to Morocco on Tuesday. Egyptian travel agencies are offering sharply reduced air fares for fans wanting to travel to Morocco for the game.

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