Egypt U23 Coach Shawky Gharib said during the Egypt-Cameroon pre-game press conference that although his team has officially qualified for the semifinals
, it still needs to secure the lead in their group, and expressed hopes that the game against the Lions will be "worthy of African football."
Hosts Egypt will face Cameroon in the final round of the Africa U23 Cup of Nations group stage on Thursday at Cairo International Stadium. The contest is being held in Cairo from 8-22 November.
The Pharaohs managed to win their first two matches against Mali (1-0) and Ghana (3-2), while Cameroon tied with Ghana (1-1) and defeated Mali (1-0).
"We have qualified for the next stage but we haven't achieved our target yet. We want to be first in our group to keep playing at Cairo Stadium instead of moving our games to El-Salam Stadium if we qualify second," revealed Gharib.
"Cameroon are a big team, we have a long history together. Their coach Song was a great player with great experiences, we have met several times.
"They have good teamwork and possess many distinguished players. We analyse the games to define strengths and weak points. I hope the Egypt-Cameroon game will be worthy of African football," he added.
Egypt will be missing two of their essential players: Nasser Maher, who suffered an injury in Mali's game, which will prevent him from playing until the end of the tournament, and Ammar Hamdy, who was given two yellow cards in the two games and as such will not participate in the Cameroon match.
"The technical staff will meet today to choose the starting lineup against Cameroon, putting in consideration that our target is to qualify first, but at the same rotating the squad is important to keep our players safe," said the former coach of the U21 national team, who won a bronze medal in the 2001 World Cup.
Gharib also commented on the "heroic" game of the young Pharaohs against Ghana, where they came from behind with a goal to end the match in their favour with a result of 3-2.
"Ghana's game was an enjoyable encounter in the world of football. It witnessed five goals, it was enjoyable in everything. With our continuous pressure on them, we had no doubts that we would win," Gharib told the press conference.
The U23 national team coach thanked the Egyptian fans for their presence and support throughout the game, which helped encourage the players to do their best.
"I'm very happy with the fans' presence. The second game witnessed a notable increase in attendance at double that of the first game. As I had told them, come and we will not let you down," Gharib said.
Three out of the eight teams partaking in the tournament will qualify for the 2021 Olympics in Tokyo.
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