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Sports

Egypt target place in Cup of Nations quarter-finals

media Hector Cuper is the first coach of Egypt to lead a team at the Cup of Nations since 2010. AFP/ Patrik Stollarz

For the past seven years, Egypt have been an absent giant from the Africa Cup of Nations. The Pharaohs’ last trip to the competition came in 2010 in Angola where they won the trophy following a 1-0 victory over Ghana in the final in Luanda. The two teams face each other on Wednesday in Port-Gentil in the final game in Group D.

Whoever takes the three points will advance to the last eight as winners of the pool and a date with Morocco in Port-Gentil. If it is a stalemate, Ghana will claim the group and Egypt will travel to Oyem to take on Democratic Republic of Congo.

Should Ghana prevail and Mali beat Uganda, the Egyptians will be on their way home where the future of coach Hector Cuper will come under intense scrutiny.

But such an outcome is not envisaged, says Ahmed Elmohamady. The 29-year-old Hull City defender was part of the squad that won its third title on the trot in 2010. He is one of only four survivors from the side along with Ahmed Fathy, Mohamed Abdel-Shafi and 44-year-old goalkeeper Essam El Hadary.

"The manager always says the one target is to win the cup. Because in Africa everyone knows how good Egypt is, how good we were before when we were winning the cup," Elmohamady told AFP. "Not too many players have won it before but we have some experience in this group that can help the team to go through and win."

The game in Egypt suffered after the 2011 uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak and as a result of the 2012 Port Said stadium riot in which 74 people died. After the disaster domestic football was suspended for two years.

"The whole thing affected us. But it's all gone now," said Elmohamady. "Everything is back again, football is back again and it helps the national team of course.

"To win the cup again would be very good for the country, for the people who are waiting for something to celebrate in Egypt."

Egypt were fortunate to escape from their opening game against Mali with a 0-0 draw on 17 January. The same result seemed to be in the offing against Uganda four days later until Abdallah Said scored the winner in the 89th minute.

"Now modern football is always attacking football with the full-backs always high," Elmohamady said. "But the coach is a bit different, a bit old-school. But it helps us. It suits us as a team."

 

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