A word of caution
Egypt thumped Rwanda but the players were advised not to let the win go to their heads. Nashwa Abdel-Tawab explains
Egypt found no difficulty in pounding Rwanda 5-1 in a friendly in Port Said as both countries prepare for the African Nations Cup (ANC) beginning later this month in Tunisia.
Tamer Abdel-Hamid rounds the Rwandan keeper for Egypt's second goal
photo: Amr Gamal
Ahmed Belal, Tamer Abdel-Hamid and Beshir El-Tabei scored in the first half while Ahmed Hassan netted twice in the second.
Manager Mohsen Saleh said he was satisfied with the performance but had a proviso. "We should be objective and not become overconfident on account of the victory." He said the game was a good dress rehearsal before Egypt plays Zimbabwe which, he added, "is comparable in skill and strength to Rwanda". Egypt is in Group C with defending champions Cameroon, Algeria and Zimbabwe.
Rwanda, a relative lightweight in African football, managed to knock four-time champions Ghana out of the qualifiers to etch a place of its own in the ANC.
Saleh also confirmed that Mohamed Barakat, Ahmed "Mido" Hossam, Hani Said, Medhat Abdel-Hadi and Hossam Ghali, who all play abroad, will join the team for two more warm- up matches against the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Burkina Faso before travelling to Tunisia on 20 January.
Cameroon, Nigeria, Senegal and Egypt are top contenders for the title.
African champions Cameroon hung on to the top African spot in the latest monthly rankings released by FIFA, while Egypt jumped up to second from fifth. Senegal is third, Nigeria fourth and South Africa fifth.
Meanwhile, Cameroon legend Roger Milla has revealed that President Paul Biya had instructed him to look into the reasons behind striker Patrick Mboma's exclusion from the ANC squad. Milla's disclosure pleased several fans who had joined the debate urging German coach Winfried Schafer to recall Mboma to the Indomitable Lions.
Mboma had refused to play for Cameroon at last year's Confederations Cup, accusing Schafer of being unable to make independent decisions regarding team selection. But the rift between the two looked to have been settled when he played for the Lions in the Foe charity match on 11 November, as well as the subsequent friendly against Japan. The decision to exclude Mboma from the Nations Cup team has been a source of great worry to fans in Cameroon who feel it would be unwise to solely depend on the goalscoring form of Samuel Eto'o.
It is not the first time that Biya has directly intervened in national team selection matters. Following public pressure, Biya put Milla into the 1990 World Cup team and subsequently ordered the inclusion of Milla, Paul Louis Mfede and Victor Ndip Akem in the 1994 squad.
Mboma was not the only player in such a situation. Nigeria's midfielder Wilson Oruma declared that his exclusion from the list of players competing for a place in Nigeria's ANC squad is unjustified. Oruma, who plays for French first division side Sochaux, insists that his form over the last two seasons has earned him the right to fight for a shirt. Oruma, who made the 2002 Nations Cup side at a late stage but failed to get a spot on the 2002 World Cup team, said that the coaches' decision not to invite him to compete for a place in Tunisia has left him embittered.
Oruma, who captained Nigeria to the FIFA under-17 World Championship in 1993, said he is interested to know the reasons for his exclusion by manager Christian Chukwu. The midfielder said he has been left with no choice but to concentrate on his career with Sochaux but hopes that the Super Eagles perform well in Tunisia.
Down south, South African coach Ephraim Mashaba has issued a statement in which he confirmed that he would take his employers, the South African Football Association (SAFA), to court. This follows his dramatic seven-day suspension, the day before Bafana-Bafana's departure for their Cosafa Cup away clash against Mauritius which they lost 2-0.
"A notice of suspension alleging that I had breached my agreement with SAFA, without detailing the facts of my alleged breach, was sent to my house on the evening of 7 January 2004," Mashaba's statement began. "This necessitated my seeking legal advice about my suspension and the unfair manner in which I have been treated by SAFA."
SAFA CEO Albert Mokoena said the manager had seven days in which to rectify his "breach of contract", which included not monitoring the performance of players and not promoting the interests of the country.
But several leading South African labour experts believe Mashaba's suspension is flawed, since SAFA did not issue specific reasons as to why he was suspended.
In Kenya, Jacob 'Ghost' Mulee has picked his final 22 man ANC squad. There were two surprise names in the squad with Seychelles-based defender Moses Gikenyi and Danish-based mid- fielder Emmanuel Ake both making the cut.
Mulee was very impressed with Ake, who plays for AB Copenhagen, in a recent training match in Kenya.
Several other players were less fortunate, including goalkeeper Victor Onyango who was left out due to a shoulder injury, while Mike Mururi, Bernard Mwalala, Evans Nyabaro and James Mulinge were all omitted from the final squad. But brothers Andrew Oyombe and Dennis Oliech will be together in Tunisia.
As he named his squad, Mulee was confident about his side's chances in Tunisia. "It is a big challenge we have but after playing against top teams, we realise that Kenya is not far behind from the rest. There is a new wave in Kenya sports and we are not going to be the ones to stop it," Mulee added.