Egypt coach Shawky Gharib says he was surprised by the team's poor display in Friday's defeat away to Senegal but believes it is too early to judge his team at the African Cup of Nations qualifiers.
The Pharaohs campaign to reach the Nations Cup for the first time since 2010 got off to a disappointing start, with Senegal claiming a 2-0 home win in the opening Group G encounter on Friday.
“I didn’t expect that performance at all,” Gharib, who succeeded American Bob Bradley as Egypt's head coach following their failure to reach the 2014 World Cup, said after the match.
“But you can’t evaluate our experience with the national team after a single match,” Gharib added, referring to his first competitive game in charge of Egypt.
“The qualifying campaign and our group are tough. However, we still have 5 matches to play, it's too early."
Gharib defends his strategy
Egypt, the record holders of the Nations Cup with seven titles under their belt, have made wholesale changes to their squad following the retirement of some key veterans such as Mohamed Abou-Treika and Wael Gomaa and the loss of form of others but it seems there is a long way to go before they can hit top gear.
Egypt's starting line-up included three players who played less than five international games, with none of them leaving his mark in a disappointing night for the ailing side.
They were let down by too many mis-placed passes, with natural right-back Ahmed Fathi, who played in an unfamiliar position on the left, in particular struggling to get the ball out of his own half.
“We played with the same formation and strategy in Bosnia’s friendly and we won so it is not the reason behind the loss today,” explained Gharib, who won the CAN three times in a row (2006, 2008 and 2010) as an assistant to coach Hassan Shehata.
“We had many mistakes in passing the ball and we failed to put the required pressure on our opponents but the defenders are not the only ones to be blamed.
“The poor fitness of the players, especially Chelsea’s Mohamed Salah, is also a reason for the loss. The Egyptian league hasn't started yet and also Salah didn’t play regularly with Chelsea. If Salah is off-form, Egypt's performance is always affected.
“Playing against a big team like Senegal at its home soil also made the players somewhat afraid tonight,” he added.
Defence is a worry ahead of Tunisia test
Egypt will be desperate to avoid the same fate they faced in Dakar when they meet Tunisia in their second group game in Cairo on Wednesday.
“Our defense performance is worrying me ahead of Tunisia clash as the time is too short to amend the mistakes,” the 55-year-old boss said.
Egypt will also face Botswana in Group G as they aim to reach the biennial tournament for the first time since winning the last of their seven titles in 2010.
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