World Cup dream drives Pharaohs

ALEXANDRIA - Their proud history in Africa aside, Egypt’s last of only two World Cup appearances was 22 years ago.

It’s a long wait the record seven-time African champions are desperate to end.

And after missing out on the last two African Nations Cup finals, the Pharaohs have put a high priority on qualifying for next year’s World Cup in Brazil.

During a pre-match press conference yesterday ahead of tonight’s World Cup qualifier against Zimbabwe, Pharaohs coach Bob Bradley reemphasised the North African country’s desire to return to world football’s greatest showpiece.

“For me when I came to Egypt, everyone talked about the dream to go to the World Cup,” the American told a packed press room at the two teams’ shared hotel here yesterday.

“There have been all sorts of challenges for the year I have been here. The country changes every day. (But) One thing that doesn’t change is the dream to go to the World Cup. Every time we get together with the players, we talk about this dream.

“It has been difficult at times, but it’s about trying to find a way to transform the team and find the right path to the World Cup.”

As things stand, Egypt’s dream is still alive, sitting pretty at the top of Group G with six points from their opening two qualifiers against Mozambique and Guinea.

Egypt warmed up for their game against the Warriors last week with a thumping 10-0 win over Swaziland, although Bradley has refused to get carried away by the result.

“We don’t read too much into that result,” Bradley said. “We have quickly put that behind us. A World Cup qualifier is different. I know their (Zimbabwe) coach, Klaus-Dieter.  He has obviously done a lot of homework with his team and they will play well. We are ready for a World Cup qualifier.”

Bradley, who guided the United States to the round of 16 at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, said as much as he respected Zimbabwe, he will instruct his team to search for an early goal tonight to unsettle the visitors.

“We got to take control of the match and try to push things early, but we have to understand that even if the goal doesn’t come early, we must still continue to do things the right way and try to open up the defence,” said.

The 55-year-old trainer said he had seen footage of Zimbabwe’s 2-1 friendly international win over Botswana last month.

“I think Klaus-Dieter has different plans for this game, so I don’t expect the same Zimbabwe to turn up tomorrow.”

Commenting on the Warriors, Bradley said: “I have done my homework on the Zimbabwean team. I know they have some good players, like Denver Mukamba, and I know in the last game Ocean Mushure played well. Some players play in Zimbabwe, some in South African an a few in Europe.”

10 000 fans will be allowed into the Borg El-Arab Stadium tonight, a development delights Bradley.

“We’ve said over and over that our fans are important” Bradley said. “We played the first game against Mozambique in an empty stadium. It means a great deal to look at those stands and see our supporters. We have waited a long time to get to that.”

Speaking at the same press conference, goalkeeper Abdel-Wahed El-Sayed said the Group G draw between Mozambique and Guinea at the weekend “was a very good result for Egypt.” - Enock Muchinjo in Egypt

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