Wednesday,18 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1313, (29 september - 5 October 2016)
Wednesday,18 October, 2017
Issue 1313, (29 september - 5 October 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Small team prospers, big squad ready

The futsal team is writing history and Cuper and his men prepare for the Congo. Marawan Zayed reports

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Al-Ahram Weekly

Our Egyptian futsal (five-a-side) national team made the nation proud a few days ago after they managed to reach the quarter-finals of the World Cup after knocking out the Italian national team in one of the best games in the tournament so far. The game ended 4-3 in extra time after a hugely thrilling encounter that saw Egypt squander its lead three times until it scored the killer goal in extra time to qualify to the quarter-finals at the expense of one of the best teams in the tournament.

No one really expected our national team to win the game especially after digging very deep to qualify from the group stages with three points from three games which earned Egypt a place in the next round as one of the best two third teams. A 7-1 win over Cuba in our opening game seemed a very encouraging sign of what we could do in the tournament before a 6-1 defeat in the second game at the hands of Russia brought us down to earth in brutal fashion.

The 2-1 defeat in our final game of group stages against Thailand ensured that the zero goal difference guaranteed a place in the next round to face the mighty Italian team, and here came the surprise of the tournament so far. Al-Ashwal, who was the star of the show with a hat trick, will have to be at his very best alongside his teammates as they prepare to face Argentina in the quarter-finals aiming to continue the journey with another miraculous win against one of the favourites.

Moving to the more familiar national team, Hector Cuper and his men are preparing to face Congo in our first game of the 2018 World Cup qualifiers on 9 October. The Argentinian Cuper called up more or less the same players of his last squad in addition to Kahraba who returned to the national set-up after being overlooked since the start of the year. Kahraba certainly merited his inclusion given his exploits in the Saudi league where he scored four goals and set up another in a 5-1 win over Al Wehda which added to a number of very impressive performances with his team.

The game will be very difficult as Congo will be hoping to start with a win on their home soil while Egypt and Cuper will be under pressure to end a long wait to reach the World Cup, the last appearance being in 1990. Ghana and Uganda are the other two teams in the group with Ghana the clear favourites to win the group and qualify to the World Cup once again but revenge should push our national team to the limit to avoid another failure against Ghana after suffering humiliation at their hands four years ago. Cuper will surely be hoping the likes of Kouka, Kahraba, Al-Nenni, Ramadan Sobhi and star man Mohamed Salah can give him a flying start in the qualifying campaign.

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