Pharaohs prove they don't need Mido's touch
Egypt's victory over Ivory Coast on Saturday not only kept alive their hopes of a record fifth African Nations Cup title, but also did the tournament no end of good.india Updated: Jan 29, 2006 16:47 IST
Egypt's victory over Ivory Coast on Saturday not only kept alive their hopes of a record fifth African Nations Cup title, but also did the tournament no end of good.
With crowds at the other matches pitifully poor - ticket prices ranging from 100 Egyptian pounds (14 euros) to 20 pounds proving beyond the average Egyptian more used to paying 10 pounds for league matches involving top clubs like Zamalek - it ensures at least that they will come back for the quarter-final.
On the pitch the victory not only ensured they finished top of their group, and probably avoid meeting Group B favourites Cameroon, but proved two points.
Firstly the double from Imad Motaeb showed that while their star striker Mido claims he is 'the big man' - which is partly true as the 22-year-old is huge - there is more to the host team than him.
Indeed the Egyptians probably played their best football so far.
After the Spurs marksman had gone off in the 24th minute Motaeb, also 22, showed far more agility especially with his second goal.
Having fallen over after his chip was tipped onto the post he picked himself up off the ground and was on hand to prod the ball in after veteran Hossan Hassan's misdirected header fell to him.
With Mido doubtful for the last eight clash because of a groin ailment and creative attacking midfielder Mohammed Terika suspended, he received his second booking of the tournament for over exuberant celebrations after he scored their second, scoring responsibility will fall on Motaeb and Hassan.
However the Egyptian victory has also given the coaching staff headed by former international Hassan Shehata reason to crow.
Shehata had launched a fierce attack on the team's critics prior to the match saying he picked the team and not them.
"I cannot understand why people criticise me without good reason," he said.
He was especially irritated by the doomsayers, who questioned why he had brought back 39-year-old Hassan and made him captain - Hassan's old legs carried him through virtually 70 minutes of the Ivory Coast match and he set up the second goal.
"Hassan is a good captain and is qualified to coach younger players including Mido (the latter showed his appreciation by walking to the bench and embracing his mentor at half-time of the 3-0 victory over Libya)," said Shehata, who was capped 70 times and was voted Asian Footballer of the Year in 1979.
His assistant Shawky Gharib, who represents him at post match press conferences, also moved to rebut those 'troublemakers' seeking to create divisions in the squad.
"There are no problems within the camp. Everyone is united and it is just the press trying to make trouble and suggest that there is disunity because certain players aren't playing."
If there is indeed any problems within the camp then they must surely have been sorted out on Saturday as there is no better remedy than success.