World Cup fever yet to strike fans as Egypt open qualifying campaign

Hatem Maher, Friday 1 Jun 2012

The hype that usually accompanies Egypt World Cup campaigns is nowhere to be seen as the Pharaohs open their qualifying bid against Mozambique on Friday


The build-up to Egypt’s World Cup qualifying campaigns has always been accompanied by intense media speculation as to whether the team will finally end its lengthy drought stretching back to 1990.

It is the other way round this time as Egypt open their 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign on Friday.

The presidential elections frenzy has overshadowed everything else, including the Pharaohs’ game at home against Mozambique in the Group G opener on Friday in Alexandria.

The Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi and former prime minister Ahmed Shafiq are vying to become the first post-Mubarak president in the election runoff on 16 and 17 June.

Egypt missed out on a place at the 2010 World Cup in heartbreaking fashion following a 1-0 defeat by North African rivals Algeria in a playoff in Sudan, a loss which was followed by a diplomatic rift between the two countries.

Football-related topics had the lion’s share of the Egyptians’ daily discussions over the subsequent months but since the eruption of the January 2011 uprising football has been on the back foot, giving the edge to politics.

“Unfortunately we play this game in difficult circumstances,” Egypt coach Bob Bradley said this week in an interview with the Confederation of African Football's website.

“I have asked [the players] to forget about the political situation and focus on the match. I asked them to win and bring happiness to Egyptians.

“They are dreaming of World Cup qualification and we have to make their dreams true. We’re going to miss our fans in this game, but we promise to do our best to make them happy.”

Lack of action

On paper, Egypt seem firm favourites to overcome Mozambique, but lack of competitive domestic action may take its toll on the seven-time African Champions.

February’s infamous Port Said disaster forced a suspension of all football activities in Egypt and led to the cancellation of the Premier League, leaving Bradley struggling to prepare his side for the Mozambique game.

Egypt, who must finish as the group leaders to advance to the final round, will face Guinea in their next group game on 10 June.

They have played 12 friendly games since Bradley took over last year following the departure of highly-successful coach Hassan Shehata, in which the American boss experimented with many new faces as he sought to inject fresh blood into a somewhat ageing team.

Egypt won nine games, drew twice and lost one - a 2-0 defeat by five-time world champions Brazil in the Qatari capital Doha.

“It’s going to be a tough game. The first match is always difficult, especially in the World Cup qualifiers,” Bradley said of the Mozambique match.

“Winning this game is the key for other victories to come, so it’s a must win game for Egypt.

“We played some friendly games but we were forced to hold them outside Egypt for security reasons. The local football league has stopped so I opted to call Ahly, Zamalek and ENPPI players as they have been playing with their clubs in CAF interclub competitions.

“I also recalled some of the U-23 team players for this match as they are physically fit after playing many games in prepation for the London 2012 Olympic Games.”

Egypt will play behind closed doors at Borg El-Arab Stadium in Alexandria due to security concerns. The interior ministry has refused to secure any match since the Port Said tragedy, setting 10 conditions that should be fulfilled by clubs if it is to allow spectators to attend games.

Bradley has left out Zamalek’s star duo Amr Zaki and Mahmoud Abdel-Razek ‘Shikabala’. Striker Zaki is suffering from fitness problems while Shikabala was overlooked following his touchline row with Zamalek coach Hassan Shehata during an African Champions League game earlier this month.

English-born defender Adam El-Abd, who made his Egypt debut in a 2-1 friendly defeat by Cameroon, is also out as he is yet to obtain an Egyptian passport.

Skipper Ahmed Hassan, the world’s most capped player, is doubtful after picking up a groin injury, so is Mainz forward Mohamed Zidan due to an intestinal catarrh.

(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter: @AO Sports)


Short link: