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So far, so good
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 08 - 09 - 2015

Bassem Morsi, Zamalek's revelation this past season, scored a hat-trick for Egypt in their 5-1 demolition of Chad in a Group G away match in their bid to reach the Africa Cup of Nations after three successive ill-fated attempts.
Morsi scored his first two goals after 25 minutes of the match before Chad came back through Ezechiel Ndouasel.
Mohamed Salah, formerly of Roma, added the third goal for the Pharaohs before half-time, while teammate Mahmoud Kahraba added a fourth after the break.
Morsi completed his hat-trick on the 62nd minute to ensure Egypt a top spot in Group G with a perfect six points from two games. Egypt opened their Cup of Nations qualifying campaign with a convincing 3-0 home win over Tanzania.
Nigeria are two points behind Egypt after their 0-0 draw in Tanzania on Saturday.
Egypt next face Nigeria for what is billed as the biggest clash of the group.
The winners of each of the 13 groups and the two best-placed runners-up will advance to the finals, which will be the 31st edition of the showpiece continental football tournament, alongside hosts Gabon.
Record seven-time African champions Egypt, including three titles in a row, another record, have been unable to reach the ANC since winning the title in 2010.
They brought Argentine coach Hector Cuper specifically for that purpose, as well as to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.
Cuper had made it clear that his selection was not based on what the fans like but according to the calibre of the opponent and the need to move to the top of the group.
Cuper was addressing a controversy that started after he left out Ahly midfield duo Hossam Ghali and Abdullah Al-Said, who have put in some fine displays lately, especially in Ahly's CAF Confederation Cup campaign. Cuper was openly criticised by Ahly boss Fathi Mabrouk who described the choice as “unfair”. “Leaving out Ghali and Al-Said is totally unfair,” Mabrouk was quoted in the press as saying. “The pair has been in quite good form of late and was playing for Ahly. Given their experience on both the domestic and continental fronts, they should have been the first names to make the Egypt list,” Mabrouk said.
But Cuper's philosophy was different as he defended his squad selection, saying he only chooses those who are capable of implementing his playing strategy. “I choose only those who can implement my plan on the field. The score is the only way of judging my selections.
“Whenever I walk on the streets, fans come up to me to demand the inclusion of a certain player. I've been Egypt's manager for five months now and I know who should be named and who should not.”
“Whatever I do, my squad selection will never please everyone,” Cuper said in a press conference last month.
The decision to leave out in-form Zamalek winger Mustafa Fathi and Ahly's veteran right-back Ahmed Fathi also raised some eyebrows.
Five foreign-based Egyptians were called up for the Chad game -- Salah, Sporting Braga striker Ahmed Hassan ‘Koka', Basel midfielder Mohamed Al-Ninni, Ahly Jeddah full-back Mohamed Abdel-Shafi, and Trezeguet.
“Egypt is hoping to qualify for the Cup of Nations and that is what I am fighting for. This is my sole mission and nothing else,” added Cuper.
Minister of Youth and Sports Khaled Abdel-Aziz sent congratulations to the national team after their victory in Chad, especially for winning with such a big score.
Before the win, Egypt's national team edged back into the top 50-ranked sides in the world in FIFA's ranking for September. The Pharaohs moved up three places and now occupy 49th spot, the first time they have been in the top 50 in 2015. In 2010 they had their highest ranking of nine.
In other group matches, Burkina Faso, South Africa and Tunisia were the biggest losers, suffering losses away from home.
‘Les Etalons' of Burkina Faso, losing finalists at the 2013 edition in South Africa, lost 1-0 to Botswana in a Group D encounter in Francistown.
In Nouakchott, Mauritania overwhelmed South Africa, beating them 3-1 to boost their chances in Group M. In addition, Tunisia tasted defeat for the first time in the qualifiers after Liberia beat them 1-0 in Monrovia.
Striker Ferebory Dore was the hero for Congo scoring four times in their 4-2 win over Guinea Bissau at Bissau in Group E. Algeria scored twice in the last five minutes to secure a 3-1 victory away to Lesotho. Victory moves Algeria back to the top of Group J with a maximum six points, while pointless Lesotho are rooted at the bottom.
Defending champions Ivory Coast were held to a shocking 0-0 draw with Sierra Leone. The match was played in the neutral venue of Port Harcourt in Nigeria as Sierra Leone is still banned from hosting international football because of the Ebola outbreak. It was a disappointing start to Michel Dussuyer's reign as the new Elephants' coach.
Cameroon beat Gambia 1-0 in Banjul to go top of Group M. The Indomitable Lions have won both their opening group games, and have a five point advantage over bottom side South Africa.
Zambia, champions in 2012, beat Kenya 2-1 in Group E while in Group L, leaders Zimbabwe shared the points with Guinea as both drew goalless, while Swaziland and Malawi shared four goals in the group's other game, also after a goalless draw.
Mauritius edged past Mozambique 1-0 and collected its first points in Group H. The victory put Mauritius on equal footing with second-placed Rwanda on three points. Cape Verde overcame Libya 2-1 in their match that was played in Cairo on security grounds. With its victory, Cape Verde shared top of the group with Morocco with six points each from two victories.
In Group B, the Central African Republic scored twice in the first half to see off visitors DR Congo 2-0.The result puts them level on points with their opponents but the pair are one point off the lead after Angola drew 0-0 with Madagascar.


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