Preview: Warda saga overshadows Egypt's preparations for Uganda game

Hatem Maher , Saturday 29 Jun 2019,
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Mohamed Salah and Amr Warda
Egypt's Mohamed Salah and Amr Warda applaud fans after the AFCON opening match with Zimbabwe (Photo: REUTERS)

There was little room for football talks before Egypt face Uganda in their final group-stage game at the African Cup of Nations on Sunday, with Amr Warda's expulsion and reinstatement to the team dominating headlines in an unfortunate build-up.

The Greek-based winger, who is no stranger to controversy, was under the spotlight for all the wrong reasons, having released a video to offer his apologies after appearing to admit to sending inappropriate messages via Whatsapp to an Egyptian fashion model.

A Mexican woman also published a video which she said was sent to her by Warda, purportedly showing him naked. The Egyptian Football Association (EFA) acted swiftly, sending him packing and saying he would no longer represent the team at the Nations Cup.

However, the governing body has seemingly buckled under pressure from some leading players, including skipper Ahmed Elmohamady and Mohamed Salah, with the Liverpool talisman calling for Warda to be given another chance despite acknowledging that his teammate had made a mistake.

"We need to believe in second chances... we need to guide and educate. Shunning is not the answer," he wrote in a tweet that went viral.

Elmohamady held up two fingers on each hand to refer to Warda's number 22 shirt after scoring in Egypt's 2-0 win over DR Congo on Wednesday, which lifted the hosts to the last 16, before saying the entire squad had given its backing to the 25-year-old.

His statements and Salah's comments caused a social media outcry, which was further fuelled by the EFA's decision to pardon Warda.

Despite sealing smooth progress to the knockout stage with maximum six points from two games, Egypt will be under even more pressure to lift a record-extending eighth trophy, with any failure likely to be attributed to the off-field problems that have cast a cloud over the team's campaign.

Egypt found no difficulty brushing aside Zimbabwe and DR Congo but have hardly produced any attacking flair despite coach Javier Aguirre's vow to reverse their dependence on defence, which was a hallmark of Hector Cuper's era when they reached the Nations Cup final in 2017 and qualified for the World Cup last year.

They will be eager to defeat Uganda and ensure their progress as Group A leaders. The Cranes are likely to provide a stiffer test than what the other teams had offered, having collected four points from two matches.

"We achieved a very important thing; winning six points from the two matches and ensuring qualification for the next round while keeping a clean sheet, and that is a good thing," Aguirre told a news conference in Cairo.

"Uganda is a strong and well organised team who play with a fighting spirit … I think it will be a stiff confrontation."

Egypt will play their remaining games at the Nations Cup with only two goalkeepers after third-choice goalie Mahmoud Gennesh ruptured an Achilles tendon during a training session on Friday.

(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