Friday,22 February, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1363, (5 - 11 October 2017)
Friday,22 February, 2019
Issue 1363, (5 - 11 October 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Critical clash

On Sunday, Egypt could qualify for the 2018 World Cup, reports Inas Mazhar


Cuper at the press conference
Cuper at the press conference

Egypt take on Congo in a crucial World Cup qualifier on Sunday 8 October at the Borg Al-Arab Stadium in Alexandria.

The game is regarded the “to be or not to be” match. According to the result the Pharaohs and the nation will either celebrate qualifying for the World Cup in Russia in 2018 or wait until the final match against Ghana in Accra in November before knowing their fate.

With four games played and only two left, Egypt lead Group 5 of the African qualifications with nine points from three wins and one defeat. Uganda follow second with seven points from two wins, one draw and one defeat. Ghana come third with five points from one victory, one defeat and two draws. Congo lie at the bottom of the table with one point from one draw and are eliminated.

As much as the Congo match is important to Egyptians – footballers and fans alike – just as important is the Uganda versus Ghana match which will take place the day before in Kampala. That result really matters. If Egypt beat Congo and Ghana win or draw with Uganda, then Egypt will go to Russia next year, regardless of what happens in game six. A surprising Uganda win over Ghana could spoil the party. The last game of the group has Egypt playing Ghana in Accra and Uganda vs Congo in Brazzaville.

However, Egypt have an advantage with the Uganda-Ghana match being played the day before they meet Congo. The result will help the Pharaohs plan their match the following day and know exactly what is needed from them.

In preparation for the game, Egypt started a closed training camp at Borg Al-Arab in Alexandria on Monday. The team has been training daily in the evenings at the Egyptian Military Stadium, aka, Borg Al-Arab Stadium. Tickets for the game are almost sold out. They have been on sale since Monday with LE300 for the first category and LE75 for the unified ticket, where fans can sit anywhere in the second and third category stands. Though security officials have agreed to allow 60,000 spectators into the 80,000-seat capacity Borg Al-Arab, the game is expected to see a full house considering its importance.

Egypt beat Congo 2-1 in the away match. But “we don’t have the luxury to consider these calculations,” Egypt’s Argentinian head coach Hector Cuper told a pre-match press conference on Monday at the national team’s training centre of 6 of October city. “We are not thinking of how the Uganda Ghana match will end and whether the result is in our favour or no. We are only focusing on our match and winning the three points regardless of the result of the other match. Still, we will be watching the game. Of course, it will help knowing the situation before hand, but again we want to win this game and later think of the final game against Ghana.”

“Congo is a good team and they have some skillful players and we are ready for the game. We have studied them very well and determined their points of strength and weakness. What our concern is that it has been a long time since we played against them – the first-leg match was almost a year ago – so we don’t really know if they are going to play with the same players or they have new ones.

“I am sure it is going to be a stressful match for everybody, for us and all the Egyptian people. Life has always been stressful. I am aware of the nation’s dream and have always been ever since I took the job. I am always doing my best to fulfill their dream.

“By the way, the qualifications for the World Cup is not over yet. We still have two matches to play against Congo and then Ghana and we have six points to collect. I am not concerned about the Ghana match right now. All my concentration is winning this game against Congo and then we see.

“The only problem facing us is the injuries and also exhaustion of some key players who have been playing a lot with their teams either in Europe or the home players from Ahly. We hope they can be ready for the match and we are trying to prepare their substitutes to replace them. In the end, all 23 players selected to join the training camp and the lineup list have the chance to play the game according to their readiness. Anything could happen anytime even minutes before the match,” Cuper said. “That is why we should always be ready with alternatives.”

Egypt last appeared in the World Cup in Italy in 1990.

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