Egypt's handball team (Photo: Al-Ahram)
Egypt will be looking to advance beyond the last 16 at the Handball World Championship when they open their campaign against North African rivals Algeria on Friday in a tough group.
Facing African champions Algeria is not the only stern test Egypt will face in Group C after they were paired with European champions France, heavyweights Iceland and Sweden and the Czech Republic.
"It's one of the strongest groups in the tournament," Egypt coach Marwan Ragab told Ahram online.
With the first four teams in each group advancing to the second round, the Pharaohs will have no choice but to win two games to secure a place in the next round.
Egypt managed to do only once since the 2003 World Championship, having been eliminated at the last-16 stage at the 2013 edition in Spain.
On paper, Egypt do not have a great chance of progressing but Ragab and his players are determined to perform well, albeit without raising expectations.
"For sure our mission will not be easy but we will do our best to advance to the second round and qualify from this strong group,” he said.
Given the superiority of trio France, Sweden and Iceland, Egypt should focus on beating Algeria and Czech Republic to stand a chance of going through.
"Beating France, Sweden or Iceland will be a dream. I think we have a chance against Algeria and Czech Republic,” he added.
Egypt had prepared well for the tournament, having played several friendly games against Saudi Arabia, Italy, Brazil, and Slovenia.
In December, they held in a three-week training camp in Slovenia where they tested their tactics against the Slovenian national team and three powerful Slovenian teams.
"We benefited well from the Slovenian camp. It was important to test our tactics and the players against a strong team like Slovenia," Ragab said.
Despite the difficult task ahead of him, Egypt are determined to leave their mark in the World Championship.
"I think we must show to the whole world that we can play very well," Ragab added.
Ragab, who was a member of Egypt's golden generation that finished fourth in the 2001 World Championship in France for their best-ever achievement, is looking to rebuild the team after years of repeated failures.
Egypt were the dominant force in Africa in the 1990’s and the first five years of the 2000s but suffered a dip in form in the subsequent years.
"I hope to help the national team regain their position of one the world heavyweights. I know that it will be so difficult, especially that the team don’t have the quality players of the past but we will do our best to achieve our goal," he concluded.
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