Saturday,21 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1358, (24 August - 6 September 2017)
Saturday,21 July, 2018
Issue 1358, (24 August - 6 September 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Egypt hoping to inch closer to Russia

The Egyptian national football team takes on Uganda in the first leg of its FIFA 2018 World Cup qualifier in Kampala, reports Inas Mazhar


Egypt celebrates a goal against Uganda during the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations

At a press conference on Thursday 24 August Egypt’s head football coach Hector Cuper will reveal his thoughts about the upcoming first-leg game against Uganda in a 2018 Russia World Cup qualifier. The game is scheduled to be held on 31 August in Kampala, Uganda, while the second leg will take place five days later on 5 September in Borg Al-Arab Stadium in Alexandria.

Egypt leads its Group 5 with a perfect six points from two victories against Congo away and Ghana at home. Uganda follows with four points while Ghana comes in third with only one point whereas Congo lies at the bottom of the table with zero points.

As is the custom, the Argentinean coach will make a statement about the game ahead and will answer questions before travelling with the national team for a closed training camp starting today until the trip to the Ugandan capital on 29 August.

In preparation for the crucial qualifier, the Pharaohs started their warm up this week, training daily at the FIFA Goal Project in 6th October City.

Hector Cuper

According to team manager Ihab Leheta, the team will go directly after the press conference to Borg Al-Arab to continue its training camp ahead of the first leg. “It will be a closed training camp which will last for five days after which the delegation will depart to Kampala on 29 August on board a private jet and will return immediately after the game on 31 August,” Leheta said.

He said the delegation will return to Borg Al-Arab to prepare for the second leg match on 5 September. “It is only logical that we return to Borg Al-Arab. We don’t have the luxury of time to release the players for the Bairam holidays which start 1 September. We understand everybody wants to spend the holidays with the family but we can’t do that. The players need to be fully focused on the second leg match. We can’t afford them getting distracted and losing their concentration for even a single day,” Leheta said.

Three weeks ago, Cuper announced the selection of the squad’s players abroad which included 15 names: Essam Al-Hadari (Al-Taawen, Saudi Arabia), Ahmed Al-Mohammadi (Aston Villa, England), Mohamed Abdel-Shafi (Ahly, Saudi Arabia), Ahmed Hegazi (West Bromwich Albion, England), Mohamed Al-Nenny (Arsenal, England), Mohamed Salah (Liverpool, England), Omar Gaber (Basel, Switzerland), Ahmed Hassan, better known as Koka ( Sporting Praga, Lisbon), Mahmoud Abdel-Moneim or Kahraba (Ittihad Jeddah, Saudi Arabia), Mahmoud Hassan or Trezeguet (Kassem Pasha, Turkey), Karim Hafez (Lens, France), Ramadan Sobhi (Stoke City, England), Mustafa Fathi (Al-Taawen, Saudi Arabia), Sam Morsi (Wegan, England) and Amr Gamal (Bidvest, South Africa).

Later, after the end of the FA Cup competition, Cuper selected the home-based players: Ahmed Fathi, Sherif Ikrami, Abdallah Said, Hossam Ashour, Ahmed Al-Shennawi, Saleh Gomaa, Saad Samir, Rami Rabia, Ahmed Al-Sheikh (Ahly), Tarek Hamed, Ali Gabr, Ayman Ashraf (Zamalek), Mohamed Awad, Mohamed Fathi (Ismaili) and Hossam Hassan (Smouha). The 30 players will be reduced to 23 before the first-leg match.

The two-point difference between Egypt and Uganda makes these two leg matches decisive for both teams. Egypt beat Uganda when they last met at the Africa Cup of Nations in Gabon early this year but still the team is not to be underestimated, even after rumours of the departure of their head coach Milutin ‘Micho’ Sredojevic.

Egyptian fans are counting on the results of both matches. Wins both away and home against Uganda would go a long way to securing qualification for 2018 World Cup qualification in Russia next summer. The last time Pharaohs made it to the World Cup was in Italy, 1990.

Cuper and his men are aware of that. Going to the World Cup following a 28-year absence is not only the dream of the nation but theirs as well. Making it to Russia 2018 will bring glory to all.

Cuper and the team were given a huge morale-booster following Egypt’s performance in the 2017 ACN in which the country reached the final before losing to Cameroon 2-1. Though Egypt missed out on a record seventh title, it was a huge improvement after having missed out entirely on African qualifications for three consecutive times.

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