The defender, midfielder and maybe striker - Fathi plugs up Egypt's cracks

Hatem Maher , Tuesday 31 Jan 2017,
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Fathy
Football Soccer - African Cup of Nations - Quarter Finals - Egypt v Morocco- Stade de Port Gentil - Gabon - 29/1/17. Egypt's Ahmed Fathy and Morocco's Manuel Da Costa Reuters

Television cameras spotted Egypt coach Hector Cuper giving Ahmed Fathi what seemed as baffling instructions during a friendly game against Tunisia ahead of the African Nations Cup, flailing his arm in the left and right directions.

The veteran right-back looked lost as what to exactly do, but it was an indication that he would have many roles to play at the Nations Cup in Gabon, where Egypt are seeking to win a record-extending eighth title and their first since 2010.

The Pharaohs will face Burkina Faso in a last-four clash on Wednesday with Fathi once again under the spotlight, shouldering a responsibility of covering the absence of some key players for the third match running.

The Ahly man is Egypt's wild card.

He has become familiar with almost every spot on the pitch, having only played in his usual position as a right-back in Egypt's opening Group D games - a 0-0 draw with Mali and a 1-0 win over Uganda - before switching to the left and middle in the following two matches.

He replaced regular left-back Mohamed Abdel-Shafi against Ghana after the latter was injured, keeping Christian Atsu in check once again after the Newcastle man was also kept at bay in the same manner during a World Cup qualifying clash in Alexandria in November.

Cuper also turned to Fathi when Arsenal's Mohamed Elneny missed the tough quarter-final clash against Morocco, deploying him alongside Tarek Hamed in the heart of midfield to stifle the Atlas Lions.

His defensive attributes and impressive work rate make him one of Egypt's most reliable players.

The 32-year-old relentlessly chases opposing forwards, leaving them with little chance to skip past him, especially in one-on-ones.

Social media jokes suggested Cuper might field Fathi as a striker in Wednesday's semi-final tie against Burkina Faso after Marwan Mohsen, who usually plays as a lone frontman, picked up a serious knee injury.

"I would play as a striker if I was asked to, but I will be very bad," quipped Fathi, who played in the English Premier League with Sheffield United in 2007.

"I can also play as a goalkeeper, I will not mind. I don't like to say 'no' to my coach," he added.

Fathi has made 90 international appearances since making his Egypt debut in 2002. He was part of the Pharaohs' Nations Cup winning squads in 2006, 2008 and 2010.

Nicknamed The Joker, it's not yet clear whether he will play on the right, left or middle against Burkina Faso.

(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO_Sports and on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports.)

 

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Group A W D L P
Egypt
3 0 0 9
Uganda
1 1 1 4
DR Congo
1 0 2 3
Zimbabwe
0 1 2 1
Group B W D L P
Madagascar
2 1 0 7
Nigeria
2 0 1 6
Guinea
1 1 1 4
Burundi
0 0 3 0
Group C W D L P
Algeria
3 0 0 9
Senegal
2 0 1 6
Kenya
1 0 2 3
Tanzania
0 0 3 0
Group D W D L P
Morocco
3 0 0 9
Cote d'Ivoire
2 0 1 6
South Africa
1 0 2 3
Namibia
0 0 3 0
Group E W D L P
Mali
2 1 0 7
Tunisia
0 3 0 3
Angola
0 2 1 2
Mauritania
0 2 1 2
Group F W D L P
Ghana
1 2 0 5
Cameroon
1 2 0 5
Benin
0 3 0 3
Guinea Bissau
0 1 2 1