Preview: Dare to dream? Egypt out to beat Brazil to reach 1st semi-final in 57 years

Egypt take on 2016 gold medalists Brazil in the quarter-final of the Tokyo Games on Saturday. The match kicks off at 12:00 Cairo time (10:00 GMT)

Hatem Maher , Friday 30 Jul 2021
Egypt v Brazil
Egypt s U23 side defeated Brazil in a friendly game in November 2020 (File photo: Ahram)

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Egypt's U23 football team will need to cause a huge upset and overcome 2016 gold medalists Brazil on Saturday if they are to qualify for their first Olympic Games semi-final in 57 years.

The Pharaohs beat the odds by advancing to the last eight after finishing as runners-up of a tough group that also included heavyweights Spain and Argentina.

They went through at the expense of Argentina due to a better goal difference, joining Group C leaders Spain in the last eight, and will be looking to claim the scalp of South American powerhouses Brazil.

Egypt's task is gigantic, however. Brazil are unbeaten in their last nine Olympic games and have won seven out of eight quarter-final appearances.

They also boast an embarrassment of riches in their squad, not least Everton forward Richarlison, the tournament's top scorer with five goals.

But is there is reason for optimism and if recent history is anything to go by, Egypt must believe they have a chance.

In a November 2020 friendly played in Cairo, a star-studded Brazilian team featuring the likes of Real Madrid forward Rodrygo and Hertha Berlin forward Matheus Cunha lost 2-1 to Egypt's U23 side.

Egypt also met Brazil in their previous Olympic appearance in 2012, slumping to a narrow 3-2 loss after coming close to staging a remarkable comeback from 3-0 down.

"We know that God will be on our side against Brazil. We have a specific target in our minds that we are eager to fulfill," coach Shawky Gharib said following Egypt's 2-0 win over Australia in their final group-stage encounter, which lifted them to the quarters.

Playing the Games in Tokyo is a good omen for Egypt, whose last semi-final appearance came in the 1964 edition in the same city.

Gharib is likely to adopt the same conservative tactics which helped Egypt to a surprise 0-0 draw against Spain in their tournament's opener, with the team having displayed a solid defensive display after deploying five men at the back.

Their central defensive pair of Ahmed Hegazy and Mahmoud El-Wensh, who are both over-age players, have been particularly impressive, expertly taming opposing strikers.

Even when the defence is breached, experienced goalkeeper Mohamed El-Shennawi, the third over-age player in Egypt's squad, comes to the team's rescue. This was evident during the win over Australia when he pulled off a couple of outstanding saves in the dying minutes.

The rearguard will be busy keeping close tabs on Richarlison, Brazil's ultimate source of danger.

"Egypt are a great side. Brazil played them in a warm-up for these Olympic and we lost 2-1," Richarlison told in an interview.

"They've progressed from a very difficult group. I think it will be a really difficult game. We will have to be fully focussed to be able to score goals and win."

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

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