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There are no Messis or Agueros in Egypt's squad, says Cuper

Hatem Maher , Friday 12 Jun 2015
Hector Cuper
Hector Cuper of Argentina, right, the new head coach of Egypt's national soccer team displays an Egyptian jersey during a press conference at the soccer federation headquarters in Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, March 10, 2015 (Photo: AP)
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Hector Cuper said on Friday no one is guaranteed a regular place in Egypt's squad and expressed his hope that the national team would be able to enjoy the support of home fans soon as he spoke ahead of Sunday's opening Nations Cup qualifier at home to Tanzania.

The Argentinean coach, who took over at Egypt in March following the sacking of Shawky Gharib, is tasked with rebuilding an underachieving side who had set an unwanted record of failing to qualify for the African Nations Cup three times in a row.

The political turmoil that followed the 2011 uprising which toppled autocratic leader Hosni Mubarak took its toll on the Pharaohs, who are also suffering from the lack of prominent stars following the retirement of some key players such as Mohamed Abou-Treika and Wael Gomaa.

Cuper at least takes heart from the resumption of the Egyptian Premier League, which was briefly halted in February following a Cairo football disaster that left 21 Zamalek fans dead.

Egypt face Tanzania at Alexandria's 86,000-seater Borg El-Arab Stadium in their first match of Group G, which also includes Chad and 2013 Nations Cup winners Nigeria.

The winner of each of the 13 groups will qualify for the finals plus the two best runners-up and 2017 hosts Gabon.

"There are no exceptional players who can be ever-present in Egypt's squad," Cuper, who helped Spanish side Valencia reach the UEFA Champions League final in 2001, told a news conference.

"We don't have Lionel Messi or Sergio Aguero. We can call up any player and we can exclude any player, it all depends on who can apply my strategy on the pitch."

Fan absence

Football matches in Egypt are held behind closed doors after a decision to gradually allow fans back to the stands backfired when 20 supporters died in a stampede after being tear-gassed by security forces before a league game between Zamalek and ENPPI. One supporter succumbed to his injuries in a Cairo hospital a few days later.

"The Borg El-Arab Stadium is a great venue and is even better than many stadia in Europe. But it's devoid of fans," Cuper added.

"I hope fans can attend all matches here because their presence is vital. However, I know such things are entirely out of our hands. It's the responsibility of security officials."

Egypt will miss Hull City's injured winger Ahmed Elmohamady against Tanzania. Ismaily's midfielder Amr El-Sulaya, who is targeted by Cairo duo Ahly and Zamalek and ENPPI forwards Salah Ashour and Mahmoud Kaoud were also excluded from the squad for "technical reasons". 

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