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Japan vs Egypt: The Samurai Blue take on the Pharaohs for a place in the London 2012 semis
Match: Japan vs Egypt
Competition: London 2012 Olympics – Men’s football – Quarter-finals
Venue: Old Trafford, Manchester
Date and Time: Saturday, August the 4th, 13:00 Egypt Local Time [GMT+2]
TV Listing: Al Jazeera, AD Sports, Local Channels
Millions of football fans around the world will have their eyes set on Old Trafford, as the first game of the London 2012 Quarter Finals kicks off at exactly 12:00 GMT between Takashi Sekizuka’s Blue Samurai and Hany Ramzy’s Pharaohs. In what is expected to be a nail-biter of a game, the two teams come into the quarter finals of the London 2012 Olympics with mixed forms and history behind them.
Egypt qualified to the quarter finals of the tournament after clinching the second spot from Belarus in the final game of Group C. Having lost 2-3 to a very strong Brazilian side in the opening game of the group after almost making a comeback, Ramzy’s men succumbed to a shock 1-1 draw against a New Zealand side that had just 4 shots on goal compared to 28 shots from the Egyptian side. Belarus only needed a draw to go through, but the Egyptians outclassed the Reds and beat them by three goals to one to go through to the quarter finals for the first time since 1984.
Sekizuka’s young men produced one of the shocks of the tournament in their opening game of Group D as they beat a Spanish side, heavily touted as tournament favorites, by a goal to nil. The Blue Samurai then went on to beat Morocco by another goal to nil to secure their place in the quarter finals. Japan cemented their place on top of Group D with a dull 0-0 draw against Honduras, who clinched the second spot of the group. It is to be noted that Japan are yet to concede a goal in the tournament in the three games they played.
Egypt has previously qualified to the Quarter Finals of Olympics four times, 1924, 1928, 1964 and 1984. They reached the semis in 1928 and 1964 but failed to win a medal.
Japan’s first quarter final on the other hand was in the Berlin games in 1936. They reached the quarter finals in 1968 and 2000 as well, and won the Bronze medal in 1968, after beating Mexico by two goals to nil.
The Pharaohs enter the game with a full complete squad after Al Ahly’s decision to keep the senior players in the tournament. It was widely noted that the three senior players in the Egyptian team in Ahmed Fathi, Emad Meteb and Mohamed Abou Treika would return after the group games to their club Al Ahly, who are participating in the Group Stages of the CAF Champions League, and have a game coming up on the same day of the game against Chelsea of Ghana. After Egypt’s qualification to the quarter finals, Al Ahly’s board of directors rightly decided to keep the players in London 2012, and thus bolsters Egypt’s chances of going all the way.
Egypt’s upcoming star, Mohamed Salah is clear to start Saturday’s game after being given the clear on a scan he had on his knee, as revealed by his former teammate Aly Mazhar, exclusively on King Fut. Salah seemed to have injured his left knee in the final minutes of the Egypt vs Belarus game, but continued on with the game.
Salah might not be a sure starter though, as he’s been having some trouble in training with his knee. Although given the clear with the scan, he might have some niggling pain keeping him from playing the whole 90 minutes. It was also exclusively reported by Aly Mazhar that Salah may not be able to continue the tournament, even if Egypt progress, as a result of that injury. FC Basel also are said to have a word in making that decision. Egypt’s staff are awaiting a confirmation from FC Basel for Mohamed Salah to participate.
Hany Ramzy will likely field a similar line-up to the Belarus game, retaining the now ever so effective 4-2-3-1 formation. Saad Samir is expected to keep his place in CB alongside Hegazy over Mahmoud Alaa after impressing there, while the question will remain as to whether Marawan Mohsen will start instead of Meteb as a lone striker. This could however change if Ramzy opts for a direct 4-4-2 with Mohsen and Meteb playing as two front strikers.
Probable Starting XI: Ahmed El Shennawy; Islam Ramadan, Saad Samir, Ahmed Hegazy, Ahmed Fathi; Mohamed El Nenny, Hossam Hassan, Shehab Mohamed, Mohamed Salah, Mohamed Abou Treika; Emad Meteb.
Takashi Sekizuka’s Blue Samurai are likely to field the same starting line-up as in the Honduras game as all the players are available.
Playing a 4-4-2, a backline of Yoshida, Sakai, Muramatsu and Suzuki, a midfield composed of Yamaguchi and Yamamura with the flair of ex-Bayern Munich midfielder Takashi Usami and star Otsu, and a front two pair-up of Sugimoto and Saito.
Probable Starting XI: Gonda; Muramatsu, Maya Yoshida, Sakai, Suzuki; Otsu, Yamamura, Usami, Yamaguchi; Sugimoto, Saito.
Mohamed Salah (Egypt)
Much has been made of Abou Treika’s influence on the Egyptian team. While this is more than apparent and a given fact, no one can argue the paramount effect Mohamed Salah has made on this young Egyptian team. Recently signed by FC Basel as a replacement for the Bayern bound Shaqiri, Salah provides skill, panache, pace and flair to Ramzy’s side. Along with Treika, Salah has been instrumental in Egypt’s qualification to the quarter finals by scoring in each game for the Young Pharaohs and is crucial for Egypt’s chances of further progression. A star is born.
Takashi Usami (Japan)
Coming into the tournament, much has been said about Japan’s creative midfielder and ex-Bayern Munich player Takashi Usami. The 20-year old right winger who currently plays his football for 1899 Hoffenheim is an outlet for the Japanese on the right, and provides assists and goal chances from his set pieces. Along with Yuki Otsu, Japan’s 22-year old winger, he’s instrumental in Japan’s progression to the following stages of the tournament.
Prediction: Japan 1-2 Egypt
In what is expected to be a fast paced game, with lots of chances from either side, goals are guaranteed. Although Japan haven’t conceded against the likes of Spain, the Egyptians will likely provide a different challenge than the other teams in the Group D. Abu-Treika’s experience along with Salah’s pace and flair are likely to cause problems for the Japanese defense line. Otsu, Usami and Saito will also be a handful for Egypt’s midfield. This will be a close game with chances aplenty from both sides, yet Egypt, if playing with a full team, are expected to beat Japan by as predicted.
Egypt last faced Japan in this summer’s World Youth Toulon Tournament and won 3-2:
Follow Mohamed Seif on Twitter.