It will be the Pharaohs first match under Mexican coach Javier Aguirre, who was appointed in August, replacing Argentine Hector Cuper, who left his position after the World Cup in Russia.
Shifting focus to the continental showpiece event qualifiers, Egypt, losing finalists, at the last edition in Gabon in 2017, need nothing short of a win against Niger to remain in contention. The Pharaohs occupy bottom of the log after losing their opening day game away to Tunisia 1-0, while Niger managed a home barren draw with Swaziland.
A game against Niger doesn’t bring the best of memories for the Pharaohs. After their unprecedented Africa Cup of Nations hattrick of titles 2006 (at home), 2008 (Ghana) and 2010 (Angola), Egypt failed to defend their title in 2012 with Niger standing their way.
“Mena” as the Nigeriens are nicknamed recorded an historic 1-0 victory in Niamey in October 2010, and Egypt winning the reverse fixture 3-0 in Cairo was just a dead rubber as Niger had already qualified to their first-ever Africa Cup of Nations before the clash.
“I know it’s a tough game, and I want to start my job on a positive note,” said Aguirre as the Pharaohs started their training camp in Alexandria on Monday.
“Qualifying to the Africa Cup of Nations is our first mission, and Niger game is our first step.”
Egypt hopes to make use of the new Afcon format, as participants are extended from 16 to 24 teams, meaning top two sides of each group go through.
Aguirre, who happens to be the first-ever Mexican tactician to work in Egypt, has chosen a 26-man squad for his very first mission. On top of the list comes Liverpool winger and reigning African Player of the Year Mohamed Salah, who leads 12 foreign-based players. The squad has witnessed many new faces, with six players making their debut call-ups.
“It’s a new era and we’re starting everything over again. Expect to see more changes and you have to know we’re starting from the zero point. We have some experienced players, and now we’re adding new faces to the team, and this will continue,” concluded Aguirre.
Tunisia travels to Mavuso as guests of Swaziland in the other Group J match on Sunday.
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