'Aboutrika, Gomaa are key'

ALEXANDRIA - Egypt assistant coach Zaky Abdel-Fattah says the Pharaohs will bank on the experienced pair of Mohamed Aboutrika and Wael Gomaa to add steel to a largely developmental team.

The Egyptians continue to rebuild under American coach Bob Bradley and currently lead Group G of their 2014 World Cup qualification pool with six points.

“They are very important to the team,” Abdel-Fattah, who was the United States goalkeeping coach under current Pharaohs boss Bradley, said.

“They bring a winning mentality to a young side. They are like older brothers. They are the backbone of the team.”

Egypt warmed up for their game against the Warriors with a thumping 10-0 win over Swaziland on Thursday might.

Local-based players Mohamed Ibrahim, Ahmed Hammoudi and Ahmed Gaafar scored their first international goals.

Experienced midfielder Ahmed Eid, Harras El-Hodoud striker Ahmed Hassan Mekki and Basel forward Mohamed Salah scored two goals each as Egypt swept aside the Southern African minnows.

Abdel-Fattah says 2014 World Cup qualification is his team’s main priority as the Pharaohs resume their quest against Zimbabwe tomorrow.

Egypt, who have won the African Nations Cup a record seven-times, have failed to qualify for the last two additions of the tournament and are rebuilding following a political unrest which hit the country in recent times.

The Pharaohs last played at the World Cup in 1990 having taken part for the first time in 1934.

“The main focus is the World Cup, everyone is eager to return to the World Cup after missing out since 1990,” Abdel-Fattah said.

Abdel-Fattah said his team, which lead Group G with a maximum six points, will not underrate Zimbabwe, who are also rebuilding under new German coach Klaus-Dieter Pagels.

Zimbabwe are third in the group with a single point from two games.

“Every game is important,” Abdel-Fattah said. “Every game brings us closer to the Word Cup. There are no easy games anymore. We will give them all the respect.”

Abdel-Fattah also took time to praise American Bradley for his work with the former African champions.

“I have worked with Bob for a long time, more than nine years,” he said. “He always likes a challenge. He is a great coach with a good personality. He does not like easy jobs, he likes to feel challenged.”

Tomorrow’s qualifier at the Borg El Arab Stadium in the coastal city of Alexandria will be played before just under 10 000 fans as a security precaution.

Egypt have been forced to play in empty stadiums following the revolution in the recent past.

“It is a good number. We used to play with zero. More than zero is a good number,” said Abdel-Fattah.

Asked about his knowledge of the Zimbabwean team, he said:

“I know you have one good player in Germany, and another in Belgium as well as six in South Africa. It’s a good side. We respect every opponent. It will be interesting, hopefully it will be a good game, with good sportsmanship Yes, people looks at Africa and say it’s a third world country, but we Egypt and Zimbabwe are two great African countries and we need to show that we are highly-dignified people. It’s all about African pride and good sports.” - Enock Muchinjo in Egypt

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