Egypt's national football team coach Hassan Shehata spoke to Al-Ahram about the squad's preparations for the African Cup of Nations 2012 qualifiers and its current transitional phase that has seen another player reshuffle. The following are excerpts from an interview published in Al-Ahram daily on 26 November 2010.
How do evaluate the Egypt friendly with Australia?
It was a very good experience. New faces like Ibrahim Salah, Ahmed Doweidar, Islam Awad and Ahmed Abdel-Zaher proved their worth. Additionally, some others key players like Mohamed Zidan, Ahmed Samir Farag, Ahmed Eid Abdel-Malek and Walid Soliman have bounced back.
Why has your next friendly against Jordan created such a debate?
The game is to be played on December 16 and it’s an important step in preparation for the African Cup of Nations 2012 qualifiers. It was postponed because of conflicts with national league matches and it also because it was set to be played right after the defeat to Niger. Now is a perfect time to give the newcomers more international experience.
What about the Nile Basin Championship?
It will be very useful to play in this period--3 to 16 January--as we will need a lot of matches to test our players. We want to give them the maximum opportunity to integrate themselves into the team and help us in our team buildup. Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Sudan confirmed their participation and we are hoping that all the Nile Basin countries will be there.
Technically, do you think these teams will prepare you for the South Africa clash?
Yes, of course, because African football has improved lately and there aren’t any easy games anymore. There also other issues to consider; We are hoping to strengthen our relationship with these countries. All our plans are focused on South Africa and we started studying them the day after Niger defeat. We are ready for South Africa.
Will the national team play another friendly in February?
Yes, we are organizing another friendly game on February 9 but the other party has not been determined yet. The Egyptian Football Association are negotiating with many European and African teams. I have declared my preferences: I want to play against Russia, Uruguay, Czech Republic or Cote d’Ivoire.
Why did you refuse to play against Spain?
I didn’t refuse. Spain are the world champions and ranked first in the FIFA rankings, but the deal collapsed for financial reasons.
Do you have any worries about the goalkeeping position, especially after the suspension of Essam El-Hadary?
Not at all, we have abundance of talent in this position, especially with goalies like Abdel-Wahed El-Sayed, Mohamed Sobhy and Amir Abdel-Hamid in top form.
Ahmed Hassan and Mohamed “Gedo” Nagui have been shortlisted for the 2010 CAF African Footballer of the Year award. How do you rate their chances?
It’s an honor for both of them and Egyptian football. They are good candidates. Ahmed Hassan has accomplished a lot at club and on international level. Gedo shone in the ACN 2010 and won the Golden Boot (5 goals). However I don’t think that either of them will win because the poll is based on the votes of the coaches and they usually have their own standards and prefer European-based players.
Speaking of which, Egypt has one of the best teams in Africa but you only have a few players playing in Europe. Why is that?
Most Egyptian stars prefer to stay in the country and don’t have enough motivation to move abroad. However, we have two good examples with Zidan and El-Mohammadi.