Preview: No margin for error in Queiroz's first test as Egypt face Libya

Hatem Maher , Thursday 7 Oct 2021

Carlos Queiroz barely had time to get familiar with Egypt players but he will have no margin for error though as the team host Libya on Friday in the first of a vital double-header than can make or break their World Cup aspirations.

Egypt v Liberia
Egypt defeated Liberia 2-0 in their only warm-up for the Libya double-header (Photo: the Egyptian FA s official Facebook page)

The Portuguese boss took over with Egypt trailing surprise package Libya by two points following two matches in Group F of the World Cup qualifiers, with a disappointing 1-1 draw away to Gabon sealing the fate of his predecessor, Hossam El-Badry.

Although there is still a long way to go, Libya seem to pose the sternest challenge to Egypt in the battle to occupy the group's solitary ticket to the final two-legged playoff.

Egypt will need to make sure they bag no less than four points in two meetings against their North African neighbours to keep destiny in their own hands in a group that also includes Gabon (one point) and pointless Angola.

"Results show that Libya are a strong team as they are currently on top of the group," Queiroz, whose first match in charge saw Egypt defeat Liberia 2-0 in a friendly last week, told reporters.

"We only had five days to prepare for this important meeting but we studied well the strong and weak aspects of Libya's game."

Queiroz dropped a bombshell by leaving out Ahly's key duo Magdi Afsha and Mohamed Sherif, with observers scratching their heads as to why he made such a bold decision.

The former Real Madrid and Portugal boss refused to be drawn on his squad selection, saying he would rather speak about his team as a group.

Sherif, who netted a double against Liberia with two poacher efforts, was the Egyptian league's top scorer last term with 21 goals while playmaker Afsha was one of Ahly's standout performers in a season in which they won the African Champions League and finished as runners-up in the premier domestic competition.

One theory is that Queiroz would rely more on Egypt's foreign-based players, with Turkey-based duo Mostafa Mohamed and Ahmed Kouka vying for the lone striker's position.

It also remains unclear if Queiroz will stick to the 4-2-3-1 formation adopted by El-Badry or introduce a more modern 4-3-3 scheme.

Whatever the strategy, Liverpool's red-hot forward Mohamed Salah will shoulder Egypt's hopes of unlocking Libya's defence and running them ragged.

Salah has been in imperious form lately as he tops the Premier League's scoring chart with six goals, which included a sublime strike in the thrilling 2-2 draw with Manchester City last weekend.

Egypt welcome back Mohamed Elneny after the Arsenal midfielder sat out the opening two matches against Angola and Gabon because of an injury.

First-choice goalkeeper Mohamed El-Shennawy received a knock in training but he should be fit to stand between the sticks against Libya.

Egypt host Libya in Alexandria behind closed doors, with authorities reportedly declining a request by the country's football association to lift a long-standing crowd ban.

Both sides will meet again three days later in Benghazi.

(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO_Sports and on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports.)

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