Sunday,22 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1251, (18 - 24 June 2015)
Sunday,22 October, 2017
Issue 1251, (18 - 24 June 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Egypt and Cuper off to flying start

After a slow start, the Pharaohs beat Tanzania in the first game of the qualifiers to the Africa Cup of Nations, reports Marwan Zayed

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Al-Ahram Weekly

Mohamed Salah and co were able to get the Egyptian national football team off to the best possible start in their Africa Cup of Nations qualifying campaign after they defeated visitors Tanzania 3-0 in Cairo.

All three goals were scored in the second half even though the first half could have witnessed at least five goals for the home side but for the inspired Tanzanian goalkeeper.

Sunday’s game marked the opening salvo in the 18-month preliminary campaign to determine 15 places at the next finals in Gabon.

Each of the 13 group winners qualify along with the two best placed runners-up.

Egypt’s Argentinean coach Hector Cuper started the game with an extremely attacking formation of four players in the form of Doudi Al-Gabbas and Ahmed Hassan Mekki supported by Salah of Fiorentina and Mahmoud Kahraba. Ibrahim Salah and Mohamed Al-Nenni played as defensive midfielders in front of Ahmed Hegazi, Rami Rabiea and full backs Hazem Emam and Mohamed Abdel-Shafi.

Cuper’s attacking plan was evident from the kick-off as the Egyptian team missed chance after chance and pressured the Tanzanian side very deep in their half which made life impossible for them. Mekki, Kahraba, Al-Nenni and Salah all had chances to open the scoring but saw the Tanzanian goalkeeper Deogratius Munishi in superb form to deny them, although Kahraba was guilty of missing a glorious chance from inside the six yards with an open goal at his mercy. The numerous missed chances in the first 30 minutes saw the Egyptian players get a bit nervous and finished the first half badly.

The second half started brightly as the players seemed more focussed and determined to find an opener which finally arrived in the 61st minute through Sporting Lisbon’s young sensation Rabiea via a brilliant header from Salah’s corner. The goal inspired our national side and destroyed the morale of the visitors as four minutes later we added the second goal. A brilliant play between Mekki and Salah saw the latter cross exquisitely to the substitute Bassem Morsi who headed home superbly to kill any hopes for the Tanzanian side.

Morsi came on only a few minutes earlier in place of Al-Gabbas to practically seal the win for his country. Salah who assisted in both goals and who was the obvious man of the match managed to find the back of the net himself five minutes later in spectacular fashion. His trademark run at the right hand side saw him cut inside and finish splendidly with his right foot after a great give-and-go with former Basel teammate Al-Nenni. Salah’s goal was the icing on the cake and was the least he deserved after playing a starring role for the national side in the unusual number 10 shirt.

The remaining 20 minutes saw the Egyptian players miss chances seemingly for fun in a game that saw Munishi make a remarkable 14 saves.

Cuper was understandably delighted with the performance as he reflected on the win. ”I’m extremely happy with the win and the performance and more importantly delighted we were able to make the Egyptian fans happy.

“The players gave their all from the very first minute till the last second of the game and their discipline and organisation were always going to result in a win even if the goals arrived a bit late.” Cuper then analysed the game in more detail, saying that the first 25 minutes in addition to the last half hour were a joy to watch. “We were absolutely brilliant in the first 20 or 25 minutes and could have scored at least five goals but we didn’t finish the half with the same performance.

“We made sure the players calmed down at half time which gave them the chance to start the second half coolly.

“The most important thing about the night is the win and the three points especially after Nigeria won yesterday against Chad.”

The ‘Super Eagles’ patiently wore down dogged minnows Chad in northern city Kaduna in Nigeria for a 2-0 Group G victory on Saturday.

Gbolahan Salami broke the deadlock on 63 minutes and Odion Ighalo converted a penalty 10 minutes from time to complete a routine victory. Chadian hopes were not helped by a bonuses row that delayed departing from France and the late arrival of team luggage, including training kit.

A disastrous start to the last qualifying competition robbed then defending champions Nigeria of a place in the 2015 tournament won by Ivory Coast. This time, Nigeria, which are paired with Egypt, Tanzania and Chad in Group G, put their best foot forward at the start.

“I would like to congratulate all the players in the squad even the ones who didn’t play as they also played a crucial role with their teammates,” Cuper said after the game. “And I once again stress that Ahly’s players are much a part of my plan, contrary to what reports say these days.”

Cuper picked just two players from powerhouse Ahly, as opposed to eight from cross-town rivals Zamalek, who lead the domestic league.

However, on the field, there were only five players from the league; the rest play abroad.

Egypt’s next game will be against Chad at the start of September and Cuper will certainly be very keen to collect maximum points before meeting Nigeria in the following game.

Cuper had two warm-up matches since taking on the job in March, a 2-0 win over Equatorial Guinea and a narrow 2-1 win over Malawi.

The 59-year-old made his name as coach of Valencia, taking them to two Champions League finals, but was less successful at Inter Milan. He is also a previous national team coach of Georgia.

Egypt has won the Africa Cup of Nations a record seven times, three of them in a row, another record.

But due to political instability following two revolutions, Egypt have missed the last three ACN championships.

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