Cuper confident in battle of former champions

Giza – Egypt will be seeking to end a seven-year drought when they tackle three-time African champions, Nigeria in a 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier double header this week.

The Pharaohs, record, seven-time winners, have missed out on the continent’s showpiece since the unprecedented hat-trick of titles between 2006 and 2010, and cannot afford yet another absence from the flagship continental championship.

With a new generation of players holding aloft the flag, Egypt has hired veteran Argentine Hector Cuper to put the Pharaohs back on the right way.

The Road to Gabon has started on a good note for the Egyptians, currently sitting at the summit of Group G with the maximum six points from two games, thanks to victories over Tanzania (3-0 in Alexandria) and Chad (5-1 in Ndjamena).

In a bid to end the disturbing drought, the Pharaohs will lock horns with fellow continental giants, Nigeria’s Super Eagles. Both sides lock horns on Friday, 25 March 2016 in Kaduna, north of Nigerian capital Abuja. Four days later, they will renew their clash in Alexandria.

The double-header is crucial for both sides as far as the group’s automatic ticket for the group is concerned.

“I know well the importance of this game”, Cuper told CAFonline.com ahead of his team’s departure for Kaduna.

“Everyone is waiting for this match, and this makes it a double edged weapon. Winning will put us on the right track; losing will mean pressure on our shoulders.

“I promise we will do everything we can. I have been a coach for a very long time, and never promised to win a game. We will do our best, that’s what I can promise”, added the Argentine who has handled the likes of Internazionale, Parma, Valencia, Real Mallorca and Real Betis.

Cuper recalled 25 players to his squad that will face the Super Eagles twice in 4 days. His confidence once again rely on the shoulders of Cairo giants Ahly and Zamalek charges, both contributing with 16 players equally distributed between them.

“Seeing Ahly and Zamalek progressing in the CAF Champions League was very important for the Pharaohs, both mentally and technically”, he explained.

The main focus will be on Egypt’s Europe based players, including the likes of AS Roma winger Mohamed Salah and Arsenal midfielder Mohamed ElNenny.

“They have been awesome in the recent weeks, and hopefully they will continue their inform performance. Nigeria is a talented team with strength and pace and we have to match them on field.

“I believe in my work, I believe in my players. I’m positive we are going to do a good job. That’s the spirit we need”, concluded Cuper.

Source: All Africa