Egypt's U-23 football team
coach Shawky Gharib has defended his team's strategy in the current U23 Africa Cup of Nations, asking Egyptian fans for more support in Monday's second match against Ghana.
The young Pharaohs were criticised for keeping a tightened defence in many occasions in Friday's 1-0 win over Mali in the tournament's opening match, but Gharib said he has his own point of view.
"I didn't ask players to concentrate only on defence, but our responsibility was to keep our leadership and win the match. Dominating the ball isn't the most important thing in football as winning is more important in the current period," the coach said in the Ghana pre-match press conference on Sunday.
"Egypt’s team is a big one and we play only to win and reach the Olympics," he added.
After the victory over Mali, Egypt now top Group A with three points, while Cameroon and Ghana share the spoils after their 1-1 draw, also on Friday. The top three in the tournament will reach next year's Olympic Games in Tokyo.
"The Ghana match is an important one and we’ve studied them well, like we had with Mali. Ghana's team will have bigger ambitions as the team has many good players who seek to play abroad. We have no other option but to win to reach the next round," Gharib explained.
Injury worries, fan support
It has been confirmed that Ahly's playmaker Nasser Maher will miss the rest of the tournament due to injury, adding more woes for Gharib, who is already missing the services of other key players like Karim Nedved, Taher Mohamed and Mohamed Mahmoud due to different injuries.
"We hadn't expected to lose that number of players. We hope we don't lose new players against Ghana after the five players who we already lost," the Egypt coach said.
"My team is suffering from some pressures as Egypt is the tournament's hosting country, and also after the failure of the Egyptian senior team in the African Cup of Nations at home last summer. We hope to achieve something good for our country as well as for myself as a coach.
"We thank the Egyptian fans for their attendance in the opening match and we hope to see a bigger number in the coming matches. The current generation deserves this support. We promise that we won't let you down and we await your support," he concluded.
Egypt finished third in the 2011 U23 Nations Cup and suffered an embarrassing group stage exit in the 2015 edition.
(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO_Sports and on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports.)