EGYPT coach Bob Bradley says he is anticipating a difficult match against the Warriors on Sunday, but remains confident his team will rise to the challenge during the 2014 Fifa World Cup qualifier at the National Sports Stadium.
REPORT BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
The seven-time African champions touched down just before lunchtime at the Harare International Airport yesterday with Bradley refusing to write off his opponents ahead of the Group G match which will be crucial for his team’s World Cup hopes.
For Zimbabwe, the match will be about national pride as they are out of the running for a place in the second and final phase of the World Cup qualifiers. The Warriors lie at the bottom of the group with one point.
However Bradley, whose side needed a last-minute penalty in the reverse fixture in Alexandria to snatch a last gasp 2-1 win in March, said he had a lot of respect for the hosts after their brave display in Alexandria.
“We expect a difficult game, but we also have confidence in our team. So we are looking forward to a good match,” Bradley said soon after arrival.
“We just feel that they (the Warriors) are a good side. They work very hard. They put a lot of effort into it and they are coached well, so we expect a difficult game.”
While admitting that Zimbabwe would be no pushovers, Bradley also pointed out that they had crafted a game plan to pin the hosts down. During the opening leg, the Egyptians looked very lethal when going forward via the flanks and also starved the Warriors of possession which limited them to sporadic counter raids.
“We are still a team that tries to pass the ball quickly and create chances by using the flanks, but we also know when to come into the middle.
“We know that in the first leg Zimbabwe relied on the counter attacks and caused us some difficulties and that was how they scored the goal. So we understand their strengths and we will also adjust, but mostly we will stick to the things we know well.”
Bradley said he had confidence in his squad which he said had strong minded.
“We’ve picked a good team. The nucleus of this team has been together for over a year and has a good mix between experienced players and young players. I think in that regard we have a group that believes in what we are trying to accomplish,” the American said.
The Pharaohs had a chance to fine-tune their preparations during a friendly against Botswana which finished one-all in Alexandria, a match which Bradley said gave them a chance to assess different players and select their squad.
Meanwhile Egypt captain, Abdullah El-Said, who plays for Cairo giants Al Ahly, was more bullish about his team’s hopes saying they were going for nothing short of victory.
“We will beat Zimbabwe although it is going to be a very difficult match. We are serious about qualifying for the World Cup so we have left no stone unturned in our preparations. Everyone knows that victory is very important for us.”
Egypt are on top of Group G with nine points, five ahead of second-placed Guinea and seven clear of Mozambique with three matches remaining.