Egypt are eyeing a second straight group win as they aim to reach the African Cup of Nations for the first time since winning the last of their record seven trophies in 2010
Egypt will be looking to take advantage of Group G rivals Nigeria’s goalless draw with minnows Tanazania when they visit Chad in the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers on Sunday.
After opening their Cup of Nations qualifying campaign with a convincing 3-0 home win over Tanzania, Hector Cuper’s men will be determined to claim an away win to open up a two-point lead at the top.
The pre-match hype, however, was mainly focused on the Argentine manager’s squad selection ahead of the game, rather than the caliber of the opponent and the need to move top of the group.
The controversy largely surrounded the decision to leave out Ahly midfield duo Hossam Ghaly and Abdallah El-Saied, who have put in some fine displays lately, especially in Ahly’s CAF Confederation Cup campaign.
The decision was openly criticised by Ahly boss Fathi Mabrouk, who described the pair’s omission as “unfair”, while questioning Cuper’s move to include players who have not been playing for a while.
“Leaving out Ghaly and El-Saied is totally unfair,” Mabrouk said.
“The pair has been in quite good form of late and was playing regularly for Ahly.
“Given their experience on both the domestic and continental fronts, Ghaly and El-Saied should have been the first names to make the Egypt list.
“The squad selection wasn’t 100% right, as there were other players who have been called up despite being out of action through injury.”
Cuper defended his squad selection saying, he only chooses those who are capable of implementing his philosophy.
“Whatever I do, my squad selection will never please everyone,” Cuper said in a press conference last month.
“I chose only those whom I believe are the best … those who are capable of implementing my philosophy. In any case, the upcoming match will reveal whether I was right or wrong in my squad selection, only then can everyone judge me.
“Whenever I walk on the streets, fans come up to me to demand the inclusion of a certain player. I’ve been Egypt’s manager for five months now and I know who should be named and who should be not.”
“As for Ghaly’s absence, I’ve been watching all the players over the past five months, and know well what I want for the upcoming game, Ghaly has no role now.”
Cuper’s selection of Ahly duo Saleh Gomaa and Amr Gamal also seemed somewhat peculiar for many, as the pair hasn’t been truly convincing of late.
Ahly’s newly-signed central midfielder Gomaa, however, was eventually left out after sustaining a knee injury.
Mahmoud Hassan ‘Trezeguet’ was among the names who haven’t been playing regularly recently, having yet to make his Anderlecht debut after moving on loan to the Belgian giants from Ahly.
The decision to leave out in-form Zamalek winger Mostafa Fathi and Ahly’s veteran right-back Ahmed Fathi also raised some eyebrows.
But not all Cuper’s squad exclusions were due to technical reasons, with Zamalek center back Ali Gabr – alongside Saad Samir – ruled out due to a foot injury.
Five foreign-based Egyptians were called up for the Chad game, with AS Roma winger Mohamed Salah, Sporting Braga striker Ahmed Hassan ‘Koka’, Basel midfielder Mohamed Elneny, Ahly Jeddah full-back Mohamed Abdel-Shafi – alongside Trezeguet all included.
Record seven-time African champions Egypt will be hoping to qualify for the Cup of Nations this time around, having uncharacteristically failed to reach the competiton since winning the title in 2010.