Egypt seek Mozambique springboard to knock-out stage
Benguela: Six-time champions Egypt hope to have a foot into the next round of the Africa Cup of Nations with a win over Mozambique in a Group C fixture at the Ombaka Stadium here on Saturday.
The Pharaohs got off to a winning start in Angola against Nigeria, regarded by most as their closest rivals in Benguela.
It was a dream start for a team injury has robbed of the services of stars like Mohamed Aboutrika and Amr Zaki.
However, coach Hassan Shehata has admitted that he missed both players but his target remains to complete a personal hat-trick of Nations Cup triumphs in Angola.
"We miss players like Aboutrika and Zaki, but that will not make us lose focus from our target to successfully defend our crown in Angola," declared Shehata, who led Egypt to win the continental trophy in 2006 and 2008.
"It was great to begin with a win against a big team like Nigeria, but that match is now in the past and we have to look forward to winning our next games, beginning with the match against Mozambique on Saturday."
Borussia Dortmund striker Mohamed Zidan, playing only his second Nations Cup, has thus been entrusted with even bigger responsibilities in the absence of Zaki and Mido, while strike partner Emad Motaeb silenced his critics with a solid showing against Nigeria.
However, midfielders Hosni Abdrabou and Hossam Ghaly have fallen sick here in Angola with Abdrabou, voted the best player at Ghana 2008, hardest hit as he was unable to train on Wednesday. But they are both expected to be fit for this encounter.
Against Mozambique, Shehata is most likely to pick the same team which battled from a goal down against Nigeria to win 3-1, but as this tournament has already shown, reputations are set aside once on the pitch and so even the firm favourites have had to fight for everything.
The Mambas from Mozambique have even before Angola 2010 proved they can hold their own against some of Africa`s top teams like the Ivory Coast, Tunisia and Nigeria.
They are back among the continent`s football elite 12 years after their last appearance in Burkina Faso and their confidence would have received a boost after they fought back from a two-goal deficit after 20 minutes to draw with Benin on Tuesday.
"Every game for us in Angola is a cup final and so will be the game against Egypt," said Dutch coach Mart Nooij, who has been credited with the southern African team`s recent exploits.
"I was a bit surprised by how easily Nigeria lost to Egypt, but we will fight because we have prepared very well for this tournament and that was why for the first 20 minutes, the players, who were so full of energy, lost their head for Benin to go in front.”
"However, we played a wonderful second half to draw the game."
Nooij disclosed that his game plan against the Pharaohs is to man-mark their fast forwards.
"We will man-mark Egypt forwards because they are so fast," he said. "We will try to defend well, hit back on the break and see what we can get from the game. We hope we can clinch a positive result."
The Mozambicans are a very athletic team, who in skipper Manuel Bucuane aka Tiko Tiko and striker Dario Monteiro have two of the most experienced campaigners in Angola as both players featured at Burkina Faso `98.
Their fightback against Benin also demonstrated that the team have a strong character, which will again be tested by the most successful team at this championship.
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