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New Egypt manager Gharib talks tactics, personnel
Return to three centerbacks
Gharib discussed plans for the team, including preferred tactics and team chemistry.
“Myself and the technical staff don’t have plans to play with a dedicated sweeper,” Gharib said in response to questions about the formation he used against Bosnia.
“I do play with three at the back, all of whom are on the same line. One specializing in the left side of defense, one in the right, and one in the middle.”
Gharib says Rami Rabiaa was his dedicated left centerback, while Aly Ghazal played on the right side of defense and Ahmed Ouka in the middle.
“If two of the defenders are playing man-to-man on opposing strikers, only then will someone come from behind to cover,” Gharib said, alluding a part-time sweeper role.
“Depending on what side of the field the attack is coming from, either Rabiaa and Ouka would man-up on the forwards while Ghazal covers up behind them, or Ghazal and Ouka would man-up with Rabiaa covering behind them.”
Ghazal, who plays for Portuguese outfit Nacional Madeira, was a surprise start to some considering his lack of action with the national team under former manager Bob Bradley. But Gharib made it clear that Ghazal was immediately in his plans and that he filled an area of need for the team.
“He was the first player I called when I became the manager. I told him I’ve watched you play and I’m impressed with your effort. I told him I heard you can play both in the middle and at the back. He said ‘yes, I can play either one.’ I told him to keep up the good work,” Gharib said, concluding that he’d known Ghazal since his days with Egypt’s youth team.
Playing to strengths
Gharib expounded on other player roles, namely how the assignments of Al-Ahly’s Ahmed Fathi and Hull City’s Ahmed Elmohamady differed against Bosnia based on the strengths and weaknesses of the squad as a whole, despite them playing the same position on opposite sides of the pitch.
“Aside from his defensive duties, we asked Fathi to turn inside in attack,” as opposed to continuing up the flank.
“This plays to his strength, where he can unleash a shot or pass it short to a supporting player.”
“Elmohamady on the other hand continues down the wing so he can send in his crosses, and also because [Mohamed] Salah cuts inside from his wide position in attack.”
“Elmohamady does the same thing at Hull City, so I gave him the same duties.”
Asked who the best and worst passers in the Bosnia friendly were, Gharib said Ghazal was the most efficient with just three missed passes, while Salah was the least efficient with 20. He qualified those stats however, explaining that defenders always have a more efficient passer rating due to the nature of their passes as compared to attacking players.
“The best takeaway from that stat is just that the defenders weren’t having to clear the ball too often. Instead, they were starting attacks from the back.”
Gharib, a decorated international that played on Egypt’s 1984 Olympic team and 1986 Africa Cup of Nations-winning squad, shared a story he says reveals the true character and spirit of his team.
“There was a play in particular that should have resulted in our third goal. That play, Mohamed Salah was supposed to play the ball to Amr Gamal. His effort was great, but Amr was waiting all alone with an empty net in front of him and Salah didn’t get it there.
“You know what Salah did? He sent a text message to Amr from the airport that night apologizing for not getting the ball to him for that sure goal.
“That’s love… that’s the type of camaraderie we’re trying to create within the team.”
Hegazy nears return, Blanco nears possible debut
Gharib also said he keeps in regular contact with Fiorentina and Egypt centerback Ahmed Hegazy, who has been battling chronic knee injuries the past few seasons.
“He’s already started training again. He could be playing matches starting in May,” Gharib said.
Gharib also touched on possible interest in Egyptian-Argentine striker Ismael Blanco, a 31-year-old playing for Argentina’s CA Lanús.
African Cup ‘non-negotiable’
Gharib finished his interview with a quick analysis of Chile’s tactics – who Egypt play in a friendly in Santiago on May 30 – and by affirming that qualifying for next year’s Africa Cup of Nations finals in Morocco is “non-negotiable.”
“It’s part of our long-term vision for the next World Cup, as it affects FIFA Rankings and who we play in qualifying.”