Tuesday,23 April, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1368, (9 - 15 November 2017)
Tuesday,23 April, 2019
Issue 1368, (9 - 15 November 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Meaningless match

Even though Egypt is going to the World Cup, the team is all set for its last group qualifier against Ghana on Sunday, reports Inas Mazhar


The Pharaohs’ training session at Cairo Stadium photos: Mohamed Maher

The Egyptians fly to Ghana on Friday 10 November to the cape coast city, venue of their final African World Cup qualifying game that in actuality does not need to be played. Regardless of who wins, it will not affect qualification for the World Cup. The Egyptians are going to Russia next year with an insurmountable 12-point lead in Group E from four wins and one defeat. Uganda comes second with eight points and Ghana six, while Congo lies at the bottom of the table with only one point.

The only difference the game might make concerns the rankings of the three other teams in the group.

However, head coach of the Egyptian team Hector Cuper said at a pre-match press conference held on Monday that they will take Ghana seriously, even though the result will not make any difference. “The Ghana game is very important to us. The Ghanaians are a strong team and we can’t underestimate them and we expect them to play a tough match against us. We will do our best to display our best performance to prove that we deserved the qualification,” Cuper told reporters.

Cuper said that he was sorry of the loss of Ahly in the final of the African Champions League against Wydad of Casablanca last week. Six Ahly players are among the national team squad and are key players. “I am sorry for them. Yet I believe that any team who reaches the final game of any tournament is a great team. I can imagine and feel how sad they are as I myself have gone through the same feeling before, especially the final of the Africa Nations Cup last February. Our role in the team is to understand that and help them overcome this and focus on the next match. We should respect their feelings so we can’t just tell them forget about it but try to encourage them in other ways to look ahead.”

Egypt reached the final of the African championship before losing against Cameroon 2-1.

Cuper and his technical team at the press conference

The Argentinean head coach also said there was a possibility he could push some substitute players who haven’t been playing regularly with the team against Ghana. “Why not?” he asked. “They have been training with us very hard as if they were to play any minute of the game which means they are ready if called to start.” However, Cuper added that he would still be cautious with the idea as the Ghana game is not a “field of trial”.

Egypt’s 26-man squad has been training on a daily basis since Monday at Cairo International Stadium. It has called up two newcomers: Amr Marei, who plays for Tunisia’s Etoile du Sahel Club and Mahmoud Abdel-Razek, or Shikabala, the Zamalek midfielder currently on loan to Al-Raed of Saudi Arabia. “The reason we have called on them is that they have been doing so well with their teams abroad. We have been keeping an eye on them and decided to call them up.”

The head coach added that it is still early for the World Cup. “Eight months to go for the World Cup. The coming period will see more new players joining the national team for trials in friendly games. I have been following the national league competition on a regular basis, all teams playing, to determine the best players in all positions to try them. I can’t tell you now who has captured my attention, can’t name players, it is still too early. Besides, my team and I have been busy building up for the Ghana match. All I can say is that any player who proves his capability and potential and is worthy of joining the Pharaohs will have a chance. The door is always open for skillful ambitious players.”

Cuper also said serious planning for the World Cup will start immediately after the draw which will take place in Russia on 1 December. “The draw will tell us where we stand and who are our opponents in that great competition. Accordingly, we will draw up our plans and select the teams we would like to play friendly games against and approach them. We will also definitely receive offers from other teams for friendly matches, which we will study as well and decide whom to meet for more experience.”

“I can’t tell how many friendly games we need to play to feel comfortable about our preparations. Personally, I would like to play as many friendly games as I can, but the point is that with the tight schedule of the clubs in both domestic competitions, the league and the FA cup, it is going to be difficult to release the players. Also, it is not logical to ask for the cancellation of the league competition for the sake of our preparations because this is the only chance the players make contact and play a lot. This is how I can be sure that they are constantly playing and maintaining their levels of performance, which gives me a chance, with my technical team, to follow them.”

Cuper said Mohamed Salah, the Liverpool star who netted the last breath penalty against Congo which sent Egypt to the World Cup in Russia, would not be playing against Ghana because of exhaustion.

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