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Pharaohs in town

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EGYPT coach Bob Bradley says he is anticipating a difficult match against the Warriors on Sunday, but is confident his team will rise to the challenge during the 2014 Fifa World Cup qualifier at the National Sports Stadium.

REPORT BY DANIEL NHAKANISO

The seven-time African champions touched down just before lunchtime at Harare International Airport yesterday with Bradley refusing to write off his opponents ahead of the Group G match which will be crucial for his team’s World Cup hopes.

For Zimbabwe, the match will be more or less about national pride as they are virtually out of the running for a place in the second and final phase of the World Cup qualifiers.

However, Bradley, whose side needed a last minute penalty in the reverse fixture in Alexandria to snatch a last gasp 2-1 win in March, said he had a lot of respect for the hosts after their brave display in Alexandria.

“We expect a difficult game, but we also have confidence in our team. So we are looking forward to a good match,” Bradley said soon after arrival yesterday.

“We just feel that they (the Warriors) are a good side, they work very hard, they put a lot of effort into it and they are well- coached, so we expect a difficult game.”

While admitting that Zimbabwe would be no pushovers, Bradley also pointed out that they had crafted a game plan to pin down the hosts.

During the opening leg, the Egyptians looked very lethal when going forward via the flanks and also starved the Warriors of possession which limited them to sporadic counter-raids.

“We are still a team that tries to pass the ball quickly and create chances by using the flanks, but we also know when to come into the middle.

“We know that in the first leg Zimbabwe relied on the counter attacks and caused us some difficulties and that was how they scored the goal. So we understand their strengths and we will also adjust, but mostly we will stick to the things we know well.”

Bradley said he had confidence in his squad which he said had a strong mentality and a fine balance between youth and experience.

“We’ve picked a good team. The team has a strong mentality. The nucleus of this team has been together for over a year and has a good mix between experienced players and young players. I think in that regard we have a group that believes in what we are trying to accomplish,” the American said.

The Pharaohs had a chance to fine-tune their preparations during a friendly against Botswana which finished 1-all in Alexandria, a match which Bradley said gave them a chance to assess different players and select their squad.

“The friendly match against Botswana gave us a chance of looking at different players and gave us some information about the team so that we can pick our best team on Sunday,” the coach added.

Meanwhile, Egypt captain, Adel-Waed El-Sayed, who plays for Cairo-based giants Zamalek, was more bullish about his team’s hopes saying they were going for nothing short of victory.

“We will beat Zimbabwe although it is going to be a very difficult match. We are serious about qualifying for the World Cup so we have left no stone unturned in preparing for Zimbabwe. Everyone knows that victory is very important for us.”

The seven-time African champions, Egypt, who are aiming to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1990, could secure their place in the final round with two matches to spare if they beat Zimbabwe on Sunday and if Guinea fail to overcome Mozambique.

After Tuesday’s 1-1 friendly draw against Botswana, Bradley decided to exclude midfielder Tareq Hamed (Smouha), defender Hazem Emam (Zamalek), Walid Soliman (Ahly), Ayman Hefny (El-Geish) and defender Ali Ghazal (C D Nacional) from the squad.
The squad of 25 includes:
Goalkeepers: Abdel-Wahed El-Sayed, Ahmed El-Shennawy (Zamalek) and Sherif Ekrami (Ahly)
Defenders: Ahmed Fathi, Wael Gomaa, Ahmed Shedid Qenawi, Saad Samir (Ahly), Mahmoud Fathallah, Omar Gaber and Sabri Rahil (Zamalek), Ahmed Elmohamady, and Ahmed Hegazy (Fiorentina)
Midfielders: Hossam Ashour, Abdullah El-Said, Mohamed Abou-Treika (Ahly), Ibrahim Salah, Ahmed Eid Abdel-Malek, Mohamed Ibrahim (Zamalek), Amr Soulaya (Ismaily), Ahmed Hamoudy (Smouha), Mohamed El-Nenny (Basel FC)
Strikers: Ahmed Hassan Mekky (Haras El-Hodoud), Ahmed Gafar (Zamalek), Mohamed Salah (Basel) and Ahmed Temsah (Dhofar)

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