Fans of the Egypt team cheer during their African Nations Cup qualifying soccer match against Botswana in Cairo (Photo: Reuters)
Egypt coach Shawky Gharib said he was confident his side would repeat their victory over Botswana despite struggling to break down a dogged defence in the first half of Wednesday's 2-0 African Cup of Nations qualifying win in Cairo.
The Pharaohs completed the double over Botswana after beating them again in Cairo, having claimed a 2-0 win in Gaborone, to move within one point of Group G leading duo Tunisia and Senegal, who clash later on Wednesday.
In a carbon-copy of Friday's match on the road, Egypt needed two second-half goals from Amr Gamal and Mohamed Salah to claim all three points after failing to carve out openings in a disappointing first half.
"I was never worried. Even when he went to the halftime with the score still goalless, I was confident," Gharib said in a pitch-side interview with beIN sports after the match.
"The team is notably progressing. And as I said before, I knew that Botswana's fitness will decline in the second half so we had no real problems."
Gharib was also delighted with the support of the fans, saying their presence is crucial as Egypt faces a tough challenge to reach next year's Nations Cup finals in Morocco.
Despite an ongoing crowd ban in domestic competitions, Egyptian authorities allowed up to 20,000 fans to attend Wednesday's match at Cairo Stadium.
The atmosphere was largely festive until the hour mark, when some fans in the northern stands threw firecrackers onto the running track.
The security forces swiftly reacted by firing tear gas to stop them amid concerns over the role of hardcore supporters in Egyptian football.
"We were missing our fans. We haven't played at Cairo Stadium in front of our fans for three or four years. We should thank them tonight," Gharib added.
"I'm sure the stadium will be filled with 100,000 fans when we face Senegal in our next game.
"Naturally, if we want to qualify for the Nations Cup we have to overcome Senegal and Tunisia."
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