Thursday,21 February, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1349, (15 - 21 June 2017)
Thursday,21 February, 2019
Issue 1349, (15 - 21 June 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Egypt lost

The national football side lost 1-0 to Tunisia, a toothless start to the group qualifiers for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations, Marawan Zayed reports

Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers for 2019
Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers for 2019

Hector Cuper and his team are off to an awful start in their Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers for 2019 after losing to Tunisia by a single goal away from home in a game that could have easily ended in a much bigger score for the home team who were impressive from the very first minute until the last second of the game.

The Tunisian side seemed more focused and more determined to win this first group game in front of their home fans. Unfortunately our national team made the task easy for them as our players were completely out of sorts and never got going. Egypt’s Argentine coach Cuper started the game with goalkeeper Sherif Ekrami who could be blamed for the only goal of the game as he needlessly rushed out of his goal leaving Yassine Khenissi with a simple finish in the third minute of the second half. The back four consisted of Ahmed Fathi, Ali Gabr, Ahmed Hegazi and Abdel-Shafi and they seemed disjointed, having not played together for a very long time with Hegazi and Gabr sharing the blame for the goal with Ekrami. In midfield Arsenal’s Mohamed Al-Nenni, Tarek Hamed and Abdullah Al-Said played behind the attacking trio of Roma star Mohamed Salah, Kahraba and Stoke City striker Ramadan Sobhi with all six players having an average or below par game especially Al-Said who was simply awful and had a very bad day at the office.

Salah didn’t get a sniff as the Tunisians gave him little space and time to even think of doing anything. Tunisian manager Nabil Maaloul had a near perfect plan to shut down Salah, Kahraba and Ramadan as all three found themselves surrounded by two or three players every single time they received the ball which quickly frustrated them. Cuper took too long to change anything as his first substitution came in the 73rd minute when he took off Al-Said who should have come off as early as the half time and replaced him with another out of sorts and off form player in the form of Amr Gamal who contributed nothing in his 17 minutes on the pitch.

In the same minute Mustafa Fathi came on for Sobhi and injected pace and energy up front but with little end product. The final substitution of the game came in the 87th minute as Warda replaced Kahraba but understandably he didn’t get a chance to do anything significant to help the team snatch a point for his side.

The worrying thing regarding the performance was the disjointed defence that allowed so many chances for the Tunisians which is exactly the opposite of what happened during the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations in which our defence played a key role in taking the national side all the way to the final before losing to Cameroon 2-1.

In addition to the leaky defence in the game, Egypt badly lacks a quality striker at the moment as we don’t have a natural goal scorer who’s capable of taking games by the scruff of the neck like Mohamed Zidan, Amr Zaki and Emad Meteb in the past. However, the positive part is that even though we were extremely bad and the performance wasn’t anywhere near what Cuper wanted we still lost by just a single goal.

In the same group Swaziland and Niger played out a boring 0-0 draw in Niger to leave Tunisia top of the group with three points. Swaziland and Niger picked up one point while Egypt has no points.

Egypt’s next game is against Niger in Cairo while Tunisia will travel to face Swaziland hoping to extend their lead at the top of the group while our national side will be looking for their first goals and first points of the group.

Cuper admitted after the game that the performance was bad and that his players didn’t really manage to get into the game because the game plan of Tunisian coach Maaloul was perfectly executed by his players which limited the threat of Salah and his fellow attackers. Cuper admitted that he should have made changes earlier in the game rather than in the last 15 minutes but promised to make up for the loss in the next three games before facing Tunisia again, here in Cairo.

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