Thursday,20 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1273, (3 - 9 December 2015)
Thursday,20 September, 2018
Issue 1273, (3 - 9 December 2015)

Ahram Weekly

A chance to rebound

Algeria hold Egypt to a 1-1 draw in the U-23 Africa Cup of Nations opener, reports Marawan Zayed

Al-Ahram Weekly

Egypt was scheduled to play Nigeria on Wednesday 2 December, after the Al-Ahram Weekly went to press. But if Egypt’s football team hopes to go to the Rio Olympics next year, they will have to play better than the first game when they tied Algeria 1-1 at the start of the Under-23 Africa Cup of Nations being played in Senegal.

The tournament, which features eight African countries, also serves as a qualifying tournament for next year's Olympic Games with the top three finishers booking a place in Rio.

However, Hossam Al-Badri’s men started the Group B match in Mbour on Sunday with a disappointing 1-1 draw after squandering their lead to concede a silly equaliser 20 minutes from time against Algeria.

The draw might not look that bad given the name of the opponents but the way our national team conceded the equaliser makes the draw feel like a defeat.

The evergreen Kahraba, or electricity, gave the national side the lead in the 54th minute via a great header from close range but Algeria’s Zein El Din Farahat equalised in the 69th minute with a weak shot from outside the box that found the bottom corner. Many will argue that our goalkeeper Mosaad Awad should have reacted much quicker to save the shot. However, the defence too should share the blame with Awad as they left Farahat with too much space and time to take the shot.

The Egyptian team was much better than the Algerians over the course of the 90 minutes but unfortunately could not find the back of the net in the first half despite having three or four great chances and couldn’t kill the game with a second goal after Kahraba scored. The game could have gone either way after Algeria equalised with each of the two teams missing clear cut chances.

The other game of the group between Nigeria and Mali ended in a thrilling 3-2 win for the Nigerian side. The Nigerians scored three goals in the first half and seemed set to add more in the second half but the Malian side showed great fighting spirit as they scored two goals and missed at least four clear cut chances in the last 10 minutes to equalise. Egypt’s coach Al-Badri expressed his disappointment with the result but not the performance after the game and refused to blame Awad for the equaliser, saying that the whole team committed a number of mistakes that saw the Algerians equalise against the run of play. He said that the focus should now be on the next game against Nigeria. The national side will have every chance of defeating the Nigerians as our front line of Kahraba, Mustafa Fathi, Ramadan Sobhi and Karim Nedved can cause plenty of problems to any team in the tournament if they combine well, even though none of them play as on out and out striker on his team.

The Nigerian side is very strong offensively but very poor at the back as they showed in the second half against a Malian side that should have scored more than just two goals after their players raced to miss chance after chance.

There is no doubt that winning the tournament will be a great achievement – it means being crowned African champions -- but the main aim from the tournament remains a top three finish to qualify to next year’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

The result against Algeria means Egypt must now defeat the Nigerians to keep our qualifications chances alive.

The other group saw the hosts Senegal defeat South Africa 3-1 while Tunisia defeated Zambia 2-1.

The eight contenders are battling it out from 28 November to 12 December in Senegal in two stadiums -- Stade Leopold Sedar Senghor and Stade Caroline Faye -- in Dakar and Mbour.

The young Pharaohs were quarter-finalists in London 2012 and have made the most appearances at the Olympics, having played at the Games a record 11 times. Their best finish at the Games was fourth, twice in Amsterdam 1928 and Tokyo 1964.

The Olympic dream is still on so let’s hope for a win against both Nigeria and Mali to seal qualification and get top spot in the group.

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