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Egypt vs New Zealand: Victory is the only alternative
Egypt was handed a tough first fixture in London 2012 Olympics, anything The Pharaohs could have gotten against the gold-medal favorites Brazil would have been considered a bonus. Egypt lost 2-3 in that opening match but the second fixture presents Egypt with a completely different opposition in the shape of New Zealand. New Zealand are Oceania’s only representative at the games and has qualified after beating Fiji 1-0 to claim victory in a 7-team qualification tournament. The Kiwis also lost their opening fixture 0-1 to Belarus and will be eager to secure their first points against Egypt. Egypt will be heading to the match as favorites after their remarkable second half performance against Brazil.
Hany Ramzy will be looking to rectify the mistakes committed in the first game. Firstly, by starting with the formation that he ended against Brazil; meaning that Egypt would start by having only one striker supported by a two-layer 5-man midfield. The formation that Egypt has been adopting in all the preparatory matches leading to the Olympics and only changed because of Mohamed Salah’s injury he picked up in Egypt’s Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Central Africa Republic in late June. Salah should start alongside Abou Treika behind either Marwan Mohsen or Emad Metab. Secondly, Ramzy may opt to start with the strong Shehab Ahmed instead of Salah Gomaa in his 3-man midfield (bottom-layer) to counter the strong and physical nature of the New Zealand style of play. No changes are expected in Egypt’s backline and goalkeeper Ahmed El Shennawy is still expected to start despite conceding three goals in the first game.
Probable Starting XI: Ahmed El Shennawy; Islam ‘Milo’ Ramadan, Mahmoud Alaa, Ahmed Hegazy, Ahmed Fathi; Mohamed El Nenny, Shehab El-Din Ahmed, Hossam Hassan; Mohamed Abou Treika, Mohamed Salah; Emad Metab.
New Zealand is expected to field the same starting eleven who started against Belarus and will be hoping for a different result. They will need to improve on their display in their first match by trying to keep the ball more often than just the mere 33% possession that they had in their game against Belarus if they have any chance of winning. The New Zealanders know that a loss to Egypt would end their chances of qualifying to the next stage.
Probable Starting XI: O’Keeffe Michael; Ian Hogg, Tommy Smith, Adam Thomas, Ryan Nelsen; Micheal McGlinchey, Kosta Barbarouses, Tim Payne; Shane Smeltz, Chris Wood, Marco Rojas.
Mohamed Salah (Egypt)
Mohamed Salah’s role will be crucial, especially after his impressive display in the 45 minutes he played against Brazil. Salah is expected to torment the All Whites’ defense with his blistering pace and great skill.
New Zealand (Ryan Nelsen)
New Zealand will be relying on the experience and immense work-rate of their 34 year old captain, Ryan Nelsen. Nelsen has recently joined premier league survivors Queens Park Rangers from Tottenham.
Prediction: Egypt 2-1 New Zealand
Egypt will go into the game high on confidence and will be expecting to win it. Having said that, over-confidence could very well harm the Egyptians as has happened many times before with the Egyptian national team. Lack of concentration from the players and the loss of focus of the back-line have cost Egypt in the first game. With focus and determination, Egypt should secure the 3 points as Ahmed Hegazy wisely put it in words after the Brazil loss, “It is a life or death match for us, if we want a chance to qualify we have to win our next game against New Zealand.”
Follow Moustafa El Chiati on twitter.