Egypt coach Bob Bradley said he was not distracted by speculation over his future as his side risk missing out on the African Nations Cup for the second tournament in a row.
The Pharaohs, record Nations Cup winners with seven titles under their belt, suffered a stunning 3-2 home defeat by minnows Central Africa in the first-leg of their opening qualifier.
They will have to overcome their modest opponents away from home in Saturday’s second leg if they are to avoid another continental failure, having surprisingly failed to reach the 2012 tournament in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea following a disappointing qualifying campaign that led to the departure of coach Hassan Shehata.
Reports said the Egyptian Football Association (EFA) might consider sacking Bradley if Egypt did not advance to next year’s Nations Cup finals in South Africa but they were quickly to dismiss that suggestion.
Bradley himself is not concerned by that possibility, he told reporters before Wednesday’s training session.
“I believe that since we arrived in Egypt, the work has been very good. We are building a strong team and we are focused on continuing to work,” he said, declining to comment further on the prospect of a premature exit.
The Pharaohs, who made a fine start to their World Cup qualifying campaign by collecting six points from two games in stark contrast to their Nations Cup disappointment, must beat Central Africa a by a two-goal margin at least to go through.
“Two different thoughts on this game: on one hand we understand that 2-0 is the score that will be good for us. Some times in that respect, we don’t need to go crazy so soon, we need to be smart, when the first goal comes, the second goal will come next,” the former US tactician added.
“If we are able to score three goals total, this also opens up all possibilities, we have to read the game and find the right way to attack from the beginning but do it intelligently.”
Egypt were criticised by many for being too wasteful in front of goal, with a lack of cutting edge clearly taking its toll on a team usually known for its potent strike force that featured the likes of Zamalek’s Amr Zaki, German-based striker Mohamed Zidan and Ahly’s Emad Meteb during Shehata’s ear.
Zaki fell out of favour with Bradley while Zidan was excluded from the Central Africa trip after preferring to leave Egypt’s training camp to discuss a deal with an unnamed Chinese club.
Bradley has only one recognised striker at his disposal in Ahly’s Meteb, with the likes of Ahmed Hassan Mekki and Mohamed Nagy ‘Gedo’ usually deployed as deep-lying forwards.
“There is always times when the player has to find the right way to concentrate on both his club situation and the national team. We think that this time, especially as we prepare for the second leg, every one’s attention must be with the national team with full commitment,” the bald-headed boss said of the Zidan saga.
“After a meeting with Zidan, we felt that this was not the case. In the future we will judge the situation, for now we need players who are committed. I just mentioned that this is a difficult game, we must go with a strong group that is motivated for it.”
Egypt will miss Sunderland right wing-back Ahmed Elmohamady, who strained a hamstring muscle in training. Ahly’s Ahmed Fathi is likely to deputise for him.
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