Tuesday,20 November, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1409, (13-19 September 2018)
Tuesday,20 November, 2018
Issue 1409, (13-19 September 2018)

Ahram Weekly

New coach off and running

Although Niger offered scant resistance, Egypt’s African qualifier was nevertheless a huge debut win for Javier Aguirre, reports Marawan Zayed 

Egyptian team thrashed Niger 6-0 in the second game of the Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers in Alexandria on Sunday
Egyptian team thrashed Niger 6-0 in the second game of the Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers in Alexandria on Sunday

All eyes were on Egypt’s Mexican new coach Javier Aguirre as the national team kick started his reign when they thrashed Niger 6-0 in the second game of the Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers in Alexandria on Sunday.

The first game ended in a 1-0 loss at the hands of Tunisia away from home last year so there was no alternative other than three points in this game in Borg Al-Arab Stadium especially that we were up against a mediocre Niger side. Aguirre decided to hand debuts to several players in addition to calling up players who were completely forgotten. Ahly’s goalkeeper Mohamed Al-Shinnawi started in goal with Ahmed Al-Mohamadi and Ayman Ashraf starting in the fullback positions. Baher Al-Mohamadi and Ahmed Hegazi started in the middle of the four-man defence with Ali Ghazal, Mohamed Al-Nenni and Tarek Hamed starting in the middle. Mohamed Salah, Trezeguet and Marawan Mohsen completed the starting 11 as Aguirre went for an extremely attacking line-up as one would expect against an opponent like Niger. As anticipated, the national team ran riot and put six goals past the opponent’s goalkeeper plus missing at least seven or eight clear-cut chances including two penalties from Egypt’s Liverpool superstar Salah.

Salah missed his first penalty inside the first five minutes but quickly made amends when he set up Mohsen with a brilliant defence-splitting pass to open the scoring in the 13th minute. Seven minutes later Ahly’s fullback Ashraf doubled the score when he followed up his own cross into the far corner with his weaker right foot after the ball was cleared in his direction inside the box. This is Ashraf’s second international goal in just four games as the young fullback is being groomed to becoming the future left back for the side for what looks like years to come.

Nine minutes later Salah scored his first of the night and the third for the national team when he followed up his second missed penalty of the night into the back of the net to give his side a very comfortable lead before the break. In the remaining 15 minutes of the first half the team and especially Trezeguet and Salah missed a host of chances that could have put Egypt eight goals up by half time.

However, there was enough time and quality from Egypt in the second half as we added three more goals to give Aguirre a huge win in his first game with Egypt. The fourth goal came through the substitute Salah Mohsen after Salah sent him through on goal with an excellent pass. This was Salah Mohsen’s first game with the team as he enjoyed a brilliant cameo when coming on in the second half to give Egyptian fans hopes of seeing a complete striker leading our attack once again, something we badly missed since the likes of Amr Zaki, Emad Meteb, Mohamed Zidan and Mido retired. Salah Mohsen is just 20 years old and the early signs look extremely promising for the youngster from Ahly.

The 86th minute saw Salah add another goal to make it five on the night for the Egyptians and two for Salah himself, this time with his head after Ahmed Al-Mohamadi found him with a pinpoint cross on the edge of the six yards. That was not the end as Arsenal’s Al-Nenni scored in the last minute of the game when his deflected shot from the edge of the area found the back of the net to seal the win for our national side.

The huge margin of victory surely gave Aguirre plenty of positives even though he will be the first to admit that the opponents offered absolutely nothing in the game. The benefits from the encounter included the emergence of Salah Mohsen who played a starring role when he came on, the rebirth of Ghazal who played a terrific game after being frozen out for almost three years and the brilliant performance from Baher Al-Mohamadi alongside Hegazi in defence. These three players will offer a lot to the team under Aguirre especially that the Mexican coach handed full debuts to two of them which shows he is keen on making a difference from what we saw before.

This was Egypt’s first match after their disastrous World Cup campaign in Russia in which the country lost all three group stage games under the helm of the overly cautious Argentinian coach Hector Cuper. 

All concede that the Niger game was not a real test for Aguirre and his men, but at least it showed or gave us a glimpse of what kind of football he will try to play. After the game, former Real Madrid and Spain midfielder Michel Salgado, Egypt’s new assistant coach, admitted that the opponents were not that strong but insisted that that the coaching staff will play attacking and attractive football against any team they will face regardless of the names.

Egypt’s next game will be against Swaziland in Cairo on 10 October and Aguirre is expected to stick with the same players he chose if all of them stay fit. On Sunday Tunisia defeated Swaziland 2-0 away from home to stay top of the group with six points from two games while Egypt moved to second with three points from two games.

The first two teams in all 12 groups will reach the Africa Cup of Nations that will take place in the summer of 2019 in Cameroon, the defending champions.

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