Egypt coach Queiroz defends choices in final squad for AFCON 2021

Egypt coach Carlos Queiroz has defended his choices of players for the Pharaohs’ 28-man squad for the 2021 African Cup of Nations (AFCON) after the exclusion of Ahly in-form playmaker Magdi Afsha, 25, and other prominent names from the list sparked controversy.

Mahmoud Elassal , Sunday 2 Jan 2022,
Egypt coach Queiroz
Egypt coach Queiroz. EFA

“After 40 years in the coaching career, during which I led many national teams … the team is more important than the players and I chose the best list,” Queiroz told a press conference on Sunday.

Other notable exclusions from the AFCON-bound squad include Zamalek's defensive midfielder Tarek Hamed, 32, who was left out of the preliminary squad, club teammate Mostafa Fathi, 27, who received ample playing time in the Arab Cup in Qatar last month.

“I chose the players who can meet my expectations. I am talking about the whole team not any one player in particular,” he said.

Queiroz said he held meetings with his assistants and reviewed full reports about every player in order to “determine our needs as we will face a tough competition in the Africa Cup of Nations.”

“I build up my squad on the players who can compete in the tough tournament, we need players who are ready for the tournament as there is no secured place for any player,” he added.

Cameroon will host the Nations Cup from 9 January to 6 February.

There was speculation that the tournament might be delayed again because of the spread of the Omicron COVID-19 variant but the Confederation of African Football (CAF) eventually decided to hold in the West African nation as scheduled.

ThePharaohs -  record seven-time winners of the African championship -  will kick off their Nations Cup campaign in Group D against Nigeria on 11 January before facing Sudan and Guinea-Bissau.

The 68-year-old coach took charge of the Pharaohs in early September, succeeding Hossam El-Badri, who was shown the door after a series of unconvincing performances.

The World Cup qualifiers, the FIFA Arab Cup and the African Cup of Nations were the main challenges awaiting Queiroz upon his appointment, with the first being the main priority.

The former Portugal, Iran, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia coach, who never won any titles with any of the national team he coached, accepted the challenge, promising to do his best to qualify for the 2022 World Cup.

Under his helm, Egypt reached the two-legged playoff of the 2022 World Cup qualifiers that will take place in March in a second successive appearance in the prestigious tournament.

“My main target when I took the charge of Egypt national team is to qualify for the 2022 World Cup,” Queiroz said. “I hope all of us to concentrate on this target.”

The Pharaohs final squad obviously included the team's skipper and Liverpool talisman Mohamed Salah, 29, who is joined by Arsenal midfielder Mohamed Elneny, 29, as well as the up-and-coming foreign-based players such as Galatasaray striker Mostafa Mohamed, 24, and Stuttgart winger Omar Marmoush, 22.

Aston Villa winger Mahmoud Trezeguet, 27, was also named in the squad, having recently recovered from a lengthy injury layoff.

“Trezeguet is expert and he is a good player. I am confident he will be a pivotal player in the tournament,” the Egypt national team coach said.

“Our target in the Africa Cup of Nations is to try winning in each game; to prepare a winning mentality in the squad that will compete in the playoffs of the World Cup qualifiers next March,” Carlos Queiroz said.

(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO_Sports and on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports.)

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