Assistant coach Garcia justifies Egypt squad selections for AFCON 2019

After wide criticism over selections of the technical staff, headed by Javier Aguirre, Egypt's assistant coach speaks about the reasons behind the choices made

Ahmed Abd El Rasoul , Wednesday 22 May 2019,
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Javier Aguirre
Soccer Football - African Nations Cup Qualifier - Egypt v Swaziland - Al-Salam Stadium, Cairo, Egypt - October 12, 2018 Egypt coach Javier Aguirre during the match (Reuters)

Egypt’s assistant coach Tito Garcia has defended recent selections made by technical staff for the national team’s preliminary squad for this summer’s African Cup of Nations.

On Tuesday, Egypt coach Javier Aguirre unveiled a 25-man squad that will start a preparatory camp for the prestigious tournament at home, facing wide criticism from footballers and fans over who was included and who was dropped.

“I can’t talk about players whom we didn’t call, but let me talk about the ones that we already called up,” Garcia told Sada El-Balad TV Channel early Wednesday.

“I know that there are many good players who weren’t included in the squad, but we saw that the called names are appropriate for us,” the 44-year-old Garcia explained.

Ahly's playmaker Walid Soliman, who announced his international retirement months ago, was the prominent name on the squad, alongside Pyramids FC's midfielder Abdallah El-Said, who hasn’t been on the national team since the appointment of Mexican tactician Javier Aguirre.

“We play a 4-4-2 formation, but we could change it to 4-2-3-1 or to 4-1-4-1, like what happens with El-Said at Pyramids FC. We will need his services, depending on the different circumstances in the tournament’s matches," the Spanish assistant coach said.

“Also, El-Said is the best player in the Egyptian Premier League since last January,” he added.

When asked about choosing Walid Soliman despite his international retirement, Garcia said: “Firstly, we just wanted to win the title when the tournament was due to be played in Cameroon, but now it is different after seeing Egypt hosting the event."

“Now the tournament will be played in Egypt under very big pressure from fans. So Walid can play in different striking positions, like he does with Ahly, and that is beneficial for us.

“Also, he can play under pressure as he is familiar with these situations through his participations with Ahly."

Despite their absence from recent selections, Egyptian league top-scorer Ahmed Aly and Smouha's left-back Ahmed Aboul Abou-Elfotouh were among those selected, while Ahly and Zamalek wingers Ramadan Sobhi and Mahmoud Kahraba were the prominent absentees.

The technical staff was heavily criticised for preferring Aboul Abou-Elfotouh over Zamalek’s in-form left-back Abdallah Gomaa and also for dropping Sobhi and Kahraba.

“We didn’t monitor Abou-Elfotouh only while playing for Smouha, but also when he was at Zamalek at the season’s start,” Garcia said.

“In the friendly match against Nigeria, we received an early goal after a personal error from Abou-Elfotouh. Any young player like him would fall after this situation, but surprisingly he recovered quickly and delivered an outstanding match." 

“We need this personality in the national team, besides his ability to deliver better performances than those who weren’t selected,” he concluded.

The 25-man squad is due to start a preparatory camp 6 June and play two friendly matches: the first against Tanzania on 13 June, and the second against Guinea three days later, at Alexandria's Borg El-Arab Stadium.

Egypt will host the Nations Cup, which has been expanded to 24 teams, from 21 June to 19 July.

The record seven-time African champions will play in Group A along with DR Congo, Uganda and Zimbabwe. Egypt will kick off the tournament by playing Zimbabwe on 21 June.

"We called up two extra players in case we could face any injures in the coming period. The final 23-man squad will be submitted on 11 June," Egypt's assistant coach Hany Ramzy said early Tuesday.

With Aguirre at the helm, the Pharoahs are seeking to win the prestigious title for the first time since 2010, the last of their record seven victories.

Egypt reached the final of the 2017 edition, only to lose 2-1 to Cameroon.

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

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