Egypt will face a must-win situation to achieve the dream of reaching the 2018 World Cup when they host Chad in the African qualifiers at Borg El-Arab Stadium in Alexandria on Tuesday.
The Pharaohs must make up for their 1-0 defeat by minnows Chad in N'Djamena in the first leg on Saturday. The winners will advance to a five four-team group stage; the final round of the qualifiers.
Theoretically, Egypt still has a good chance to advance to the group stage, but they will be under pressure before their own fans, given their long history of failing to qualify for the World Cup.
Egypt's interior minister has given the green light for 25,000 fans to attend the game after stadiums were closed off in the country following deadly clashes related to football games.
Although the seven-time African Champions have not qualified for the most prestigious football tournament since 1990, they are perennial participants in the latter stages of any qualifying marathon.
Egypt were close to reaching the 2010 and 2014 editions but lost to Algeria and Ghana respectively in playoffs.
Failure to reach the final round of the qualifiers will be unthinkable for the Egyptian football-mad fans, who are counting on veteran Argentinean boss Hector Cuper to deliver after more than two decades of disappointments.
Injury woes continue
Egypt are lacking full strength for the home match as four key players are missing due to injuries, including Zamalek's defender Ahmed Dwidar and striker Bassem Morsi.
"We will not call up new players as we have limited time ahead of the match. I have full confidence in the current squad," Cuper told Al-Hayat TV station on Sunday.
"I am the one who is responsible for the first leg defeat. I am optimistic that we will recover and reach the group stage," he added.
Weather concerns will be another worry for Cuper's side, who managed to thrash Chad 5-1 in the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers in September.
The match is threatened as the military-owned arena, Borg El-Arab Stadium, faces the danger of being covered in mud and water as it was last month.
Egypt Meteorological Authority officials have warned of possible heavy rains in Alexandria and the North Coast on Tuesday, but the Egyptian FA failed to move the match for another pitch.
The Confederation of African Football (CAF) regulations require the host to inform of possible arena changes 10 days before the game.
An exception can be made, however, in case of emergency.
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