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Preview: Egypt out to maintain perfect run in World Cup qualifiers

Egypt could secure passage to the final round of the World Cup qualifiers if they beat Zimbabwe and Guinea fail to overcome Mozambique in Sunday's clashes

Hatem Maher, Saturday 8 Jun 2013
Egypt beat Zimbabwe 2-1 in Alexandria in their previous World Cup qualifier (photo: Ahram)
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Views: 1620

In comparison to their nail-biting World Cup qualifying campaigns during the past two decades, Egypt are under less pressure this time around.

The Pharaohs, who collected maximum nine points from their opening three games in Group G, are expected to enjoy a smooth ride to the decisive playoff as they bid to end a lengthy drought stretching back to 1990.

They could qualify for the final round as soon as Sunday when they meet Zimbabwe, who lie at the bottom of the group after claiming a solitary point from three games, in Harare.

A victory for Egypt combined with a failure by second-placed Guinea, who have four points, to beat Mozambique (two points) will give the seven-time African champions an unassailable lead at the top with two matches to spare.

Egypt used to stumble against modest opponents in away games under former coach Hassan Shehata but they were highly convincing in their only Group G match on the road so far – a last-gasp 3-2 victory over Guinea last year.

"Before I got here I heard the mentality of playing outside Egypt was not very good. From the very beginning I told the players in order to qualify for the World Cup that has to change, has to improve," Egypt coach Bob Bradley told a news conference.

"What the players need to understand that when we play outside Egypt the conditions, sometimes the field or referees, won’t go your way. But the strength of the group and the mentality to not let those things stop us is the key.

"The game in Conakry was a good example of right mentality outside Egypt and we hope to have that again in the next game."

Egypt needed another late goal to secure a 2-1 home victory over Zimbabwe, who proved a stiff opponent in Alexandria in March despite being considered as rank outsiders.

The visitors will have to do without regular striker Mohamed Nagy 'Gedo', who was ruled out of the match due to injury, leaving Bradley with little options upfront.

It remains to be seen whether the American boss would deploy Zamalek's Ahmed Gaafar or Haras El-Hodoud's Ahmed Mekki as a lone striker in front of three attacking midfielders in his favourite 4-2-3-1 strategy.

Regular goalkeeper and Egypt skipper Abdel-Wahed El-Sayed is also out after sustaining a rib injury before the match, making way for Ahly's Sherif Ekramy who should get a rare taste of action.

"As for Zimbabwe, we expect a difficult game, they worked very hard and put in tremendous effort in Borg El-Arab. We have looked back at the game to see the things we felt were very good and things where we could improve," Bradley added.

Zimbabwe are also sweating on the fitness of Knowledge Musona, who scored his side's only goal in Alexandria, after he picked up a hamstring injury.

"Musona didn’t train today [Friday]. He has problems with his hamstring and we thought it was better to give him a rest, but he will be in good shape for the match and hopefully we can use him," Zimbabwes coach Klaus Deiter Pagels was quoted as saying by Newsday online newspaper.

The group winners will advance to a two-legged playoffs that will determine Africa's five representatives at next year's World Cup finals in Brazil.

Egypt's probable line-up:

Sherif Ekramy, Ahmed Fathi, Wael Gomaa, Mahmoud Fathallah, Ahmed Shedid, Ibrahim Salah, Mohamed El-Neny, Ahmed Elmohamady, Mohamed Salah, Mohamed Abou-Treika, Ahmed Hassan Mekki

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