Friday,20 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1288, (24 - 30 March 2016)
Friday,20 July, 2018
Issue 1288, (24 - 30 March 2016)

Ahram Weekly


Egypt faces Nigeria twice in four days aiming to qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations, reports Marawan Zayed

Al-Ahram Weekly

The Egyptian national football team faces the Nigerian side twice in four days in the Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers, aiming to stay top of the group and take a huge step towards reaching the biggest African soccer tournament after failing to reach the last three editions despite winning the three before them.

Egypt enters the first game top of the group with six points from two games, defeating Tanzania 3-0 in Cairo in the first game and demolishing Chad 5-1 away from home in the second. Bassem Morsi scored four goals from the total eight scored in both games while our Roma superstar Mohamed Salah scored twice, with the other two strikes coming from Rami Rabea and Mahmoud Kahraba.

Having said that, Hector Cuper surprisingly opted against calling up Kahraba and Morsi due to their recent poor form for their club Zamalek. The two attackers were overlooked as Argentine coach Cuper went for Salah, Amr Gamal, Marwan Mohsen and Ahmed Hassan Kouka who’s scoring for fun in Portugal for Braga and who just helped them qualify to the quarter-finals of the Europa League scoring the first goal and assisting on the fourth in their 4-1 win over Fenerbache.

Furthermore, Hull City’s Ahmed Mohamedi was once again overlooked by Cuper who certainly doesn’t believe the Egyptian fullback/wing back can offer something new to the national side. In addition to Salah and Kouka, Arsenal’s Al-Nenni, Mahmoud Trezeguet and Amr Warda are the other overseas players picked by Cuper for Nigeria’s doubleheader.

The Nigerian side on the other hand is not as powerful or as frightening as it used to be a decade ago and sits second in the group with four points, defeating Chad 2-0 at home in the first game and drawing with Tanzania 0-0 away from home, which shows they’re still not that bad but not really the powerhouse they once were.

Cuper said there are three things worrying him before the game. First, Nigeria is a huge name in Africa and will always be a very difficult opponent even if they failed to qualify to the last edition of the tournament.

Second, the Nigerian squad includes 22 overseas players with most of them playing in the top divisions of the strongest European leagues.

Finally, their head coach Samson Siasia who managed to quality to the Olympics with the U-23 side and is known to be a brilliant tactician when it comes to high profile games.

The anticipated line-up for the Nigerian side could be as follows: goalkeeper Carl Ikeme, fullbacks Okonkwo and Elderson Echiejile, centre backs Ogobonna and Ambrose, Onazi, John Obi Mikel, Moses and Ahmed Musa in midfield with Ighalo and Arsenal’s Iwobi or Man City’s Iheanacho up front.

The biggest threat in their line-up comes from their attacking trio of Watford’s Ighalo who is doing wonders in the English Premier League this season, West Ham’s Victor Moses who is full of tricks and has a good eye on goal and Man City’s Iheanacho who will probably be preferred to Iwobi.

Of course Mikel is their best player by some distance but Al-Nenni is more than capable of limiting his contribution in the middle of the park so it will be up to our defence to stop their attacking trio that could cause plenty of problems if given space and freedom.

As for our national side, the expected line-up will probably be goalkeeper Ahmed Al-Shinawi, fullbacks Omar Gaber and Sabri Rahil with Rabea and Higazi completing the backline. In midfield, Cuper will probably go for Al-Nenni and Hossam Ghali in the middle of the pitch with Abdullah Al-Said and either Trezeguet or Ramadan Sobhi completing the midfield with Salah and Kouka up front.

It goes without saying that our biggest threat will come from our superstar Salah in addition to Kouka who will surely cause plenty of problems for Nigeria’s mediocre centre backs. Sobhi can play a key role in both games whether he starts or comes on from the bench thanks to his blistering speed and unpredictability. Ghali and Al-Nenni will have to be at their very best to stop Mikel from taking control of the game as the Chelsea man can be a real nuisance if given space. Higazi and Rabea will play against one of the best strikers in English football this season in Ighalo who scores week in, week out in the league and just helped his team reach the semi-finals of the FA Cup scoring against Al-Nenni’s Arsenal away from home in their 2-1 win.

If the national side manages to stay top after both games against the Eagles, we’ll have one foot in the Africa Cup of Nations

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