Preview: Egypt's U23 football coach out to replicate 2001 glory in Tokyo

Ahram Online , Wednesday 21 Jul 2021

Egypt kick off their Olympic Games campaign against Spain at the Sapporo Dome Stadium on Thursday. The game kicks off at 09 30 Cairo time (07 30 GMT)

Egypt s U23 football

Egypt's U23 football coach Shawky Gharib is yearning for the days when he stepped onto the podium to receive a bronze medal as his youth side finished third at the FIFA World Championship in Argentina.

Twenty years on, Gharib will have another shot at international glory as Egypt begin their Olympic Games campaign in Tokyo on Thursday.

The Pharaohs will meet heavyweights Spain in the first match of a tough group that also includes Argentina and Australia.

"In Tokyo, I hope to reprise the same emotions experienced in 2001, when we made the podium in Argentina. It'd be great to have a repeat of that 20 years later," Gharib told in an interview.

Egypt must negotiate some mouthwatering clashes to advance to the quarters but Gharib has an embarrassment of riches at his disposal, including star winger Ramadan Sobhi, who propelled them to the African Nations Cup title in 2019 with some outstanding displays.

"We've got a tough group, which includes not only my team as the reigning African champions, but also South American champions Argentina, Spain and Australia, third in the Asian Cup," he added.

"We have to take into account that the respective squads will have changed a lot, especially after the postponement of the tournament for a year. The age factor will also play a big role, but judging by the current lists, all the teams playing in Tokyo will have impressively manned squads.

"The task will be hard for all four teams as there's very little between us, hence the difficulty in making any predictions."

No Mo Salah

Although he failed in his bid to lure Liverpool and Galatasaray into releasing Mohamed Salah and striker Mostafa Mohamed respectively, Gharib is confident his current crop has what it takes to go far.

He selected Ittihad Jeddah defender Ahmed Hegazy, Zamalek defender Mahmoud El-Wensh and Ahly's in-form goalkeeper Mohamed El-Shennawi as his three over-age players.

"We'll have experienced players in defence who have participated in the World Cup and the Africa Cup. What's more, our three overage picks are all senior members of the first team, so we're hoping they'll make the difference," Gharib said.

Egypt have fond memories of Tokyo, the city which hosted their best ever finish at the Olympic Games as they came fourth in 1964.

On their last Olympic appearance in 2012, the team qualified for the quarter-finals, only to suffer a 3-0 defeat by Japan at Manchester United's venue, the Old Trafford.

"Our aim is to go as far as possible, especially as our best result in this tournament came at Tokyo 1964, when we finished fourth," Gharib commented.

"We have a solid team, who have prepared well for the Olympics and benefitted from all the resources made available by both the state and our football federation.

"We find ourselves in a tough group so it’s very difficult to make any predictions. Despite this, our goal is to get through the group stage and go as far as possible."

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