Egypt U23 coach Shawky Gharib hopes his team maintains its victorious path in the U23 Africa Cup of Nations, while at the same time fans enjoy Friday's final against Cote d’Iviore.
Egypt won all its matches during the group stage, and the semifinal, beating Mali, Ghana, Cameroon and South Africa, to face Cote d'Ivoire Friday at Cairo International Stadium.
"We are playing an important game concerning Egypt's football reputation. Four months ago we left this stadium crying after being eliminated from 2019 AFCON. So it's important to perform with greatness in this final," Gharib told a pre-game press conference Thursday.
Cote d'Iviore qualified first in Group B before defeating Ghana on penalty shootouts in the semifinal.
"Certainly first place and third place will be very happy, but if you lost in the final and came second you will feel sad. The third placed have made an achievement. I hope to finish the tournament as winners," Gharib said.
"Our targets were to reach the Olympics, then the U23 AFCON final, then win it. We have the motivation to win, being the strongest in attack and defence," he added.
Gharib also praised finalists Cote d'Ivoire after their successful campaign in the tournament, saying, "Cote d'Ivoire are an organised team and have many experienced and well-paced players. We have to know that we are facing a group leader in the final, and I hope to introduce a game that represents African football."
Meanwhile, Egypt U23 national team skipper Ramdan Sobhi requested the media recognise the team's achievement after qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics.
"With all due respect to everyone, our team includes 21 men who have struggled in the tournament to achieve the Olympics qualification, and we did it, in addition to the injured players who were beside us from the beginning and some didn't even leave the camp after injury," said Ahly winger Sobhi.
Egypt and Liverpool winger Mohamed Salah faced a local criticism after failing to posted on his social media accounts any congratulations for the Young Pharaohs.
"Concerning Salah's congratulations, Salah contacted me yesterday and requested from me to congratulate all the team after the Olympic qualification," Ramadan added.
Gharib commented on news reports questioning if Salah will join the team during the 2020 Olympics, saying that it's too soon to announce which three senior players will join the team.
"As an Egyptian citizen I'm proud of Mohamed Salah for the good publicity that he makes for our country," said Gharib.
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