Egypt vs Senegal is like a 'World Cup final' for Africa; we have everything to win: Coach Queiroz

Mahmoud Sheleib , Thursday 24 Mar 2022

Egypt coach Carlos Queiroz has compared the game between the Pharaohs and Lions of Teranga in the World Cup qualifiers playoffs on Friday to a "World Cup final" for the African continent, stressing his team have "nothing to lose and everything to win."

Egypt s Portuguese head coach Carlos Queiroz. AFP
Egypt s Portuguese head coach Carlos Queiroz. AFP

“In football, nothing comes for free, we need to fight for the win. What counts, what really counts at the end of the day is what we do on the pitch. What is important to understand in this moment, as I said since I came here, is that this game is a World Cup final for Africa,” Queiroz told the pre-game conference Thursday.

Egypt will face Senegal in a two-legged tie on 25 March in Cairo and 29 March in Dakar with the winner qualifying for the World Cup in Qatar in November. 

The Portuguese tactician said that Senegal have been a dominant force in Africa in recent years, having won the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations and qualified twice for the World Cup finals.

“We have been in a process over the past six months. During the Africa Cup we were able to challenge the continent’s best and I am happy with what we did. Against Senegal, we will challenge them. We have nothing to lose and everything to win. They are the champions and everybody expects them [to win]; they have everything to lose,” he added.

Team spirit

The former Real Madrid coach hailed his team’s spirit and unity as the team’s strength. He recalled the team’s solid performance against Senegal in the final of the AFCON and how they were able to push the game till the end of 120 minutes before losing on penalties (2-4).

“I was proud of my boys in the final game; I was not on the pitch, and I saw them playing and running without their coach. It is a great and respectful team. We are all family in the national team, and all the players have the same mentality,” he added.

Queiroz was given a red card in the AFCON semi-final for dissent and spent the final against Senegal watching from the stands.

He stressed that all his players are ready and in good shape and promised to deliver better performance than last time they met.

Salah-Mane showdown

The face off between Liverpool teammates Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane is making the headline of this game due to the relationship and rivalry between two of Africa’s finest.

“It is not a game between Salah and Mane, it is a game between Egypt and Senegal. I can understand the appeal and of course they are big players. They will be under pressure and surveillance. Can they make a difference, maybe, but what is important is that how the team moves around them when they are under big pressure. That is what will make the difference and that is the magic of football,” Queiroz explained.

He also trashed claims about the unreadiness of Salah for the game following a knock he picked last week against Brighton in a Premier League game.

Defence and the 12th player

Queiroz has also played down his team’s poor scoring record despite having one of the best scorers in the world, saying that results are the only thing that matters.

“In international football, games are not as open as in leagues. If you look at the Africa Cup of Nations stats you will also see that Senegal advanced to the knockout stage having scored only one goal and from a penalty kick. In football what matters is to win and move forward to the next game. I do not care who score goals, what is important is that we progress,” he explained.

“What is important tomorrow is to defend well and not concede goals. The best teams in the world have good defensive systems then go forward to attack,” he added.

Queiroz, who took Portugal and Iran two times each to the World Cup, also stressed to the importance of the fans' presence saying that they will be their 12th player on the pitch tomorrow and have a crucial role to play.

“Tomorrow is just the first half of the game and we need all your support. If we win it is not done yet because we have another half to play in Dakar,” he concluded.

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