London 2012: Wounded Egyptians full of hope ahead of Brazil clash
Competition: London 2012 Olympics (Group C).
Venue: Millennium Stadium (Cardiff’, Wales).
Time: Thursday July 26, 2012; 20:45 Egypt Local Time (GMT +2).
TV Listing: Al Jazeera Sport +2.
2012 has been terrible for Egypt. From the country’s political unrest and the tragedy of Port Said, to failing to qualify to the Africa Cup of Nations for the second year running; no doubt one of the worst years in Egyptian football history. Many in Egypt have lost faith in football, but it’s not all gloom. At the 2011 CAF U23 Championship in Morocco – which was moved out of Egypt due to safety concerns – the Egypt men’s national football team secured qualification to the Olympics for the first time since 1992 in Barcelona. Not to mention, Bob Bradley’s Egyptian squad are currently sitting on top of their World Cup qualifying group. Bradley himself is very aware of the Olympic team’s potential, as he has featured a remarkable 13 Olympians for the national team; and will be watching them again in London. Competing at the 2012 Olympic tournament is a chance for The Pharaohs to restore some joy to the country despite all the problems back home. Egyptian icon and Olympic team captain Mohamed Abou Treika said it best, “The country needs something to smile about.”
The Port Said tragedy led to the cancellation of the Egyptian Premier league, which made it extremely difficult for coach Hany Ramzy in trying to put together his squad for the Olympics. However, he remains upbeat over this promising new generation. “Everybody has been waiting to see this good generation representing Egypt,” he said. “Not only for the Olympics but also for the World Cup 2014 in Brazil.” Egypt’s best-ever finish at the games was fourth, twice in Amsterdam 1928 and Tokyo 1964.
The U23s have been in extremely poor form recently. They represented Egypt at both this summer’s Toulon tournament and the Arab Cup but were eliminated in the group stage both times. It’s important to mention that the U23s were missing its core as Ahmed El Shennawy, Ahmed Hegazy, Mohamed El Nenny and Mohamed Salah were all away with the senior side. Not to mention, the overage players (Abou Treika, Ahmed Fathi and Emad Metab) also didn’t take part in these friendly tournaments. Mohamed Salah – Egypt’s top scorer under Bob Bradley – injured his shoulder in an African Cup of Nations qualifier in Central Africa Republic, but has been declared fit to play against Brazil, thankfully. With almost a full-strength side, Egypt beat Belgian side Lierse SK 2-1 in one of their last friendlies prior to the London Games. Lierse coach Chris Janssens was full of praise after defeat and said Egypt would win the Jupiler Pro League, had they been a club in Belgium.
Egyptian players are full of spirit despite all the problems back home:
- Mohamed Abou Treika: “We have a great team with a lot of motivation and I think we will have a great participation in these games.” “We have to show that despite the problems in our country we are still proud to play for Egypt,” he said.
- Hossam Hassan: “There’s a saying that champions get sick but they never die,” said Hossam. “We’re a big name and we’ll remain a big name.” “The upcoming period is ours,” he said. “Our generation is going to the Olympics after 20 years. We will take us to the World Cup also.”
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.
Fiorentina goalkeeper Neto is expected to stand between the posts for Brazil after their starting goalkeeper Rafael was dropped from the squad after injuring his right elbow in practice. AC Milan forward Alexandre Pato is doubtful to feature after picking up a knock to his ankle in practice almost 2 weeks ago.
Santos sensation Neymar knows little about The Pharaohs:
- “I don’t know much about them because I have never played against them, but some of my team-mates have, and they say Egypt have lots of quality.”
- “But our coach Mano Menezes will give us all the information we need about it and I am sure we will have a good match. Winning this tournament would show that we are on the right track for winning the 2014 World Cup.”
Probable Starting XI: Neto; Marcelo, Juan Jesus, Thiago Silva, Rafael; Romulo, Sandro; Neymar, Oscar, Hulk; Leandro Damiao.
Abou Treika (Egypt)
Mohamed Abou Treika is one of the overage players in the squad, and the Egyptian icon has unsurprisingly been declared captain. Although almost retiring from football after the Port Said tragedy, he said these setbacks have given him and his teammates extra motivation to do well at the Olympics, “Obviously what happened in Port Said was tragic, but everyone needs some kind of motivation,” he said. “We can take the negatives and turn them into something positive. That gave me a push to make something happen for the people who died there. It pushed me and other people to work harder.” The 33-year-old will orchestrate The Pharaohs’s attack, and has Ahly teammate Emad Metab and ‘The Egyptian Messi’ to aim for. The last time Treika played against Brazil was at the 2010 Confederations Cup, where he assisted Mohamed Zidan twice, Egypt lost 4-3.
This Santos sensation needs no introduction. Despite his young age, 19-year-old Neymar already being compared to the top players in the world. All eyes will be on Neymar at the Olympics. The only question is which position Neymar will be producing goals from. Brazil have countless options in attack, Neymar is likely to play either on the left, or directly up-top.
Prediction: Egypt 1-3 Brazil
Egypt always manage an impressive showing against The Seleção, but getting a positive result with a team who’ve barely played regular football against a star-studded side with the likes of Neymar, Hulk and Thiago Silva (just to name a few) is near impossible. Nevertheless, Egypt wont always play openly against Brazil, don’t be surprised if this turns into a goal-fest. Coach Hany Ramzy said the players want to “send a message to the world” and show that they still have pride in playing for the country.
Ahmed El Shennawy and Ahmed Hegazy already played against Brazil’s senior team with Egypt, losing 2-0 in Qatar.
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