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Egypt’s U-23 football team seek to end Olympic Games drought

Egypt’s U-23 team kick off the final phase of the London Olympic Games qualifiers on Sunday

Hatem Maher, Saturday 26 Nov 2011
Egypt
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Egypt will be hoping to end a long drought when they begin on Sunday their campaign to reach next year’s London Olympic Games.

The national U-23 side face Gabon in the opening game of an eight-team African tournament, which will decide the continent’s representative in the London Games.

The young Pharaohs, who are seeking to qualify for the Olympic Games for the first time since 1992, were due to enjoy the luxury of playing at home but the tournament was eventually moved to Morocco due to the ongoing political turmoil in Egypt.

Egypt play in Group B along with Gabon, Ivory Coast and South Africa.

“Of course, I won’t deny that we wanted the tournament to be held in Egypt,” Ramzy said in an interview with the official website of the Confederation of African Football (CAF).

“Playing at home in front of your supporters would have given our young players a huge boost, but we just have to take this as a new challenge.

“Morocco is an Arab country and I know the Moroccan public will get behind us, especially since we’ve been drawn in Group B with Gabon, Côte d'Ivoire and South Africa.”

The two finalists and the third-placed team will directly qualify for the London Games while the fourth will have to overcome an Asian representative in a two-legged tie.

“It is a big dream for us to have both targets together by winning the title and qualifying for the Olympics,” former Egypt defender Ramzy added.

“Twenty-year absence is unlike of a team of the caliber of Egypt, especially with the performance of the Team a at the Africa cup of Nations.

“This generation can give a good image for Egyptian football in the coming years.”

Egypt’s U-23 side can take heart from experiencing football at the top level, having represented Egypt’s senior team during the last two matches of the 2012 African Cup of Nations qualifiers.

Under Ramzy’s guidance, Egypt lost 2-1 at Sierra Leone before crushing Niger 3-0 at home.

Egypt’s squad boasts several promising players, including goalkeeper Ahmed El-Shennawy who made his senior team debut in the 2-0 friendly defeat by five-time world champions Brazil earlier this month.

Arab Contractors forward Mohamed Salah and Zamalek’s attacking midfielder Mohamed Ibrahim have also earned plaudits for their superb displays at the U-20 World Cup earlier this year.

Egypt have injury worries over defender Saad Samir and midfielders Ahmed Hamoudy and Amr El-Solaya.

“We made arrangements for such misfortunes, hence coming with 24-players despite the fact that only 21 are registered for the tournament,” Ramzy commented.

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