After a winning start t their campaign thanks to a 2-0 victory over Congo in Brazzaville last month, Egypt is eyeing a step closer to their dream when they entertain face Ghana in a Group E Day two clash on Sunday in Alexandria.
A goal in each half from AS Roma forward Mohamed Salah and Abdullah El Said inspired the Pharaohs to beat Les Diables Rouges in their Group E opener for the perfect start they so desired in their quest to end a 28-year absence from the Mundial.
The North Africans last World Cup appearance dates back to the 1990 edition in Italy and the man tasked with leading the Pharaohs to the ‘Promise Land’ is Argentine Hector Cuper.
The experienced Cuper renowned for his works at Inter Milan, Valencia, Real Betis among others joined took charge of Egypt in March 2015, with the ultimate target being one of the five African teams in Russia 2018.
After defeating Chad 4-1 on aggregate in the second round, Egypt launched their campaign at the group stage on a positive note, and remains the only team in the group with the maximum points. Ghana were disappointingly held to a barren draw by Uganda in Tamale.
“I believe we can grab the maximum points against Ghana”, Cuper told the media as the Pharaohs opened their camp near Alexandria last Monday.
“I know many Egyptians are still thinking of the 2013 match but that is mere history now”, he added, referring to the 2014 World Cup qualifiers playoff. Egypt suffered a historical 6-1 defeat in Kumasi, and managed a 2-1 win in Cairo, losing 7-3 on aggregate.
The Argentine recalled 24 players for the camp with no new faces in the squad, but Egyptian Premier League top scorer Hossam ‘Paulo’ Salama, who joined as backup for injured Ahmed ‘Koka’ Hassan.
“My choices were based on the performance of those players with their clubs. I have no personal problems with any player. I believe in teamwork and we are not the One-Man team as some claim”, responded the 61-year old, when questioned about the absence of some players.
“Ghana is a good team with some talented players. We’ve watched their recent matches and will know well how to face them. After all, it’s a one in a six-match campaign. We will do our best to win because this will give us a good margin over them after two rounds, but without ignoring the other sides in the group”, noted Cuper.
A full house is expected at the 86000-seater Borg El Arab Stadium, just outside Egypt’s second biggest city, Alexandria. The game is scheduled for 18:00 local time (16:00 GMT).
Uganda and Congo, who complete Group E, lock horns in Kampala 24 hours earlier.