There will be no room for error for Egypt’s U-23 side when they face South Africa in a crunch African Championship clash as they seek to maintain their pursuit of a place in the Olympic Games for the first time in 20 years.
The young Pharaohs missed out on the chance of booking a last-four berth at the African Championship with one game to spare after slumping to a 1-0 defeat by Ivory Coast following another lacklustre performance.
The defeat left them second in Group B with three points, one behind leaders Ivory Coast. South Africa are third on two points while Gabon lie at the bottom with a solitary point.
Egypt will have to beat South Africa in Moroccan city Marrakech on Saturday to make sure they progress to the semis and keep alive their hopes of qualifying for next year’s London Games for the first time since the 1992 edition in Barcelona.
A draw will be enough to lift them through if Gabon and Ivory Coast played out a draw in Saturday’s other Group B game.
The winners, runners-up and third-placed team at the African Championship will directly qualify for the Olympics. The fourth-placed side will have to overcome an Asian representative in a playoff to go through.
“We squandered the chance to guarantee a place in the semis following our defeat by Ivory Coast. We wasted many opportunities in front of goal,” Egypt coach Hany Ramzy said.
“We have one last chance against South Africa, and we should grasp it with both hands. Our chances of qualification are still intact.
“It does not matter whether we qualify as the group leaders or not,” the former Egypt defender added.
Ramzy has no injury worries ahead of the anticipated game.