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Bradley welcomes fans ahead of crucial Zimbabwe clash
Egypt coach Bob Bradley reiterated the team’s hopes of reaching the FIFA World Cup finals in Brazil after the Pharaohs’ 24-year drought ahead of the much-anticipated Group G qualifier as Egypt host Zimbabwe in the Borg El-Arab Stadium in Alexandria.
“For me, when I came to Egypt everyone talked about the dream of going to the World Cup,” Bradley told a news conference on Monday, one day before hosting Zimbabwe at the Borg El-Arab Stadium in Alexandria.
“There have been all sorts of challenges in the year and half that I have been in Egypt. The country changes every day, but one thing that never changes is this dream to go to the World Cup, and every time we have a chance to get together with the players this is what we focus on.”
Egypt, who have a game-in-hand and are two points clear of second-placed Guinea and four ahead of Mozambique, will be looking to maintain their 100 percent record in World Cup qualifying when they host Zimbabwe, after beating Mozambique 2-0 at home before securing a last-gasp 3-2 away victory over Guinea in their first two games.
“There’s been success in the past in Egyptian football, many of them. And of course there have been some disappointments. But we’ve tried to find the right way to transition the team and find a path to the World Cup and we are continuing that in the match against Zimbabwe,” Bradley added.
Bob Bradley will enjoy the support of the Egyptian fans for the first time in Egypt since the Port Said disaster led to crowd bans from the authorities due to security concerns. While the Borg El-Arab Stadium can host up to 80,000 fans, only 10,000 spectators will be allowed to attend the crucial World Cup qualifier.
“We have said over and over this (fan presence) would be really important. We played our first World Cup qualifier against Mozambique in an empty stadium. It would mean a great deal to all of us to look to the stands and see our supporters. We have waited a long time for that,” Bradley said.
The Pharaohs head into their World Cup qualifier with boosted confidence after demolishing Swaziland 10-0 in Alexandria, finally snapping a four-match losing streak that saw them drop to 75th in FIFA rankings, their worst-ever position, after losing 3-0 to Ghana, 4-2 to Ivory Coast, 2-1 to Chile and 3-1 to Qatar since January. Although, Bradley played down the significance of the comprehensive win.
“We don’t read too much into that result (Swaziland). We quickly put that behind us to focus on the World Cup qualifiers, which is very different than a friendly,” he said.
“I know that Zimbabwe’s coach has done a lot of homework so his team will be prepared. So we are ready for the World Cup qualifiers.”
Speaking to CAFonline.com yesterday, Bradley also mentioned how crucial it will be to have the fans back in the stadium to support their national team, “This time we’ll have a few thousands in the stands and 85 million outside praying for us to win. If it was possible most of these millions would be there in the stands.”
When asked about the turbulent situation in Egypt and how the Port Said tragedy and its aftermath affected him, Bradley reiterated what he proudly says, “This made the mission even more difficult, but I never thought of abandoning it. All this stuff made me determined even more to achieve success with this team.”
“Our supporters’ presence will be like magic and will motivate us to win this game”.
The Egyptian also said referring to the situation in Egypt, “We need to put a smile on the Egyptians faces who need that especially now.”
He praised his coach and sent him a strong support message: “Bradley knows well what he’s doing. He shares with us the World Cup dream, and is giving all what he’s got to fulfill this dream, despite the difficulties he’s facing.”
Amid the tumultuous times Egypt is going through and whilst all the conditions are against them, can the Egyptian national team restore some Egyptian pride and give the people something to smile about? Will football once again prove to be the sole source of happiness for a suffering Egyptian population?