Ahly’s Egypt Stars Sure Of Triumph In Three Big Matches Including Ghana
Posted On Saturday, 5th October 2013
As if the burden of playing in an African Champions League semi-final is not enough, Ahly’s Egyptian internationals are bracing for three pivotal matches, including the clash against Ghana, that could make or break their season, with several anticipating further success in the twilight of their careers.
The likes of Wael Gomaa and Mohamed Abou-Treika, veterans of hugely successful Ahly and Egypt sides, are aware it might be their last chance to put a gloss on their decorated careers when the Pharaohs play Ghana in Kumasi on 15 October in the first leg of the World Cup qualifying playoff.
That highly-anticipated clash, which gives the duo one last chance to experience World Cup football, having failed in two previous attempts to end Egypt’s lengthy drought, is sandwiched between two crucial games for Ahly against Cameroon’s Coton Sport in the African Champions League semi-final.
The Cairo giants take on Coton Sport in Garoua on Saturday before hosting the Cameroonians on 20 October in the second leg.
Ahly’s internationals, brought from the doldrums of a domestic football stoppage, will probably not sleep a wink in hectic 15 days.
“Ahly players can split their concentration between the two games, Coton Sport and Ghana,” said Gomaa, a 38-year-old rock-solid defender who led Ahly and Egypt to a host of titles, including five Champions Leagues and three successive African Cup of Nations titles respectively.
“We will finish the Coton Sport game then return to the Egyptian training camp to prepare for the Ghana qualifier,” he added, banishing worries that the busy schedule could take its toll on Ahly’s players.
Ahly look favourites to win a second successive Champions League title which would extend their record to eight triumphs in Africa’s elite club competition as they continue to defy the odds.
Nicknamed the Red Devils, they made light of the lack of competitive action last season to lift the trophy at the expense of Tunisia’s Esperance, who face South Africa’s Orlando Pirates in the other semi-final tie.
It’s the same story this term, with the Egyptian Premier League’s cancellation for the second straight season due to lingering security concerns leaving Ahly with one target to fulfill – retaining the African crown.
“Talks about a possible game against Esperance are actually harming our prospects in the competition,” Ahly coach Mohamed Youssef said on the club’s official website.
“We don’t want to be distracted by that. We are only focused on our match against Coton Sport.”
Ahly finished on top of Group A with 11 points in a superb group-stage campaign that saw them lose once against Orlando Pirates and included a remarkable 4-2 victory over arch-rivals Zamalek in the Cairo derby.
They prevailed the last time they met Coton Sport, beating them 4-2 on aggregate in the 2008 Champions League final.
“Ahly are a good team and they benefited well from set-pieces, but we know well how to face them. It will be important to beat Ahly in Cameroon to take a first-leg advantage. We are used to playing well away,” Coton Sport keeper Loic Feudjou was quoted as saying by Cameroonian media.
Ahly will only miss striker Emad Meteb, who has yet to fully recover from a niggling back complaint.
Egypt coach Bob Bradley will be keeping his fingers crossed that the handful of internationals in Ahly’s roster comes through the game unscathed as he seeks to confront Ghana with a fully-fit squad.
Source: Al Ahram