Egypt coach defends tactics, selections before last qualifier

Hector Cuper, Argentinian coach of the Egyptian national soccer team, warms up at Cairo stadium, with the team during training, in Cairo, Egypt, on Monday, Nov. 6, 2017. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)
Updated 06 November 2017
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Egypt coach defends tactics, selections before last qualifier

CAIRO: Egypt coach Hector Cuper defended his tactics on Monday, saying a different strategy may not have led the Pharaohs to what will be their first World Cup in 28 years.
Egypt has gathered in Cairo for the first time since Oct. 8, when it qualified for the World Cup with a game to spare after beating Republic of Congo 2-1 to top Africa Group E.
They tick off that last qualifier, against Ghana, on Sunday.
Yet, despite the long-awaited qualification, Cuper has been widely criticized in Egypt for his cautious tactics and heavy reliance on Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah. Some in the local media have mockingly dubbed the Argentine’s strategy to be “Pass it to Salah,” and others have gone so far as to say he should be fired.
Egyptian football officials side with Cuper, the coach since 2015, and have pledged to keep him through the World Cup in Russia next year.
Cuper answered the criticism on Monday at a packed news conference at Cairo’s 100,000-seat stadium, after the national squad trained.
“The team may have the potential to perform better, and we could have changed our tactics, but we may also not have been going to Russia as we are now,” Cuper said through an interpreter.
“In football, not everyone can agree on a single set of tactics. Sometimes, even realizing all the set objectives is not enough for the sport’s officials. It’s natural.
“Sometimes, I myself make a wrong assessment and it’s possible that Egypt could have qualified for the World Cup with a different coach ... my abilities may have their limitations, and with another coach you could have played better, braver, and attacked more.”
To criticism that he has relied heavily on overseas-based players, Cuper said he’s tried 50 players in his 2 ½-year tenure, and he and his staff have tirelessly watched domestic games with a view to recruiting new talent. But he cautioned that bringing in new faces won’t be easy at this stage.
“We watch and we analyze to see who is better and more suitable,” he said. “The players already in the squad know their places are not guaranteed. Even my job is not guaranteed.”
The priority for the Ghana match will be on little-used players already in the squad. Cuper defended leaving Salah out of the squad for the Ghana game, saying the striker was “very exhausted, both physically and emotionally” when he was last on international duty. He, instead, called up striker Mahmoud Abdel-Razeq, better known by his nickname Sheekabala, for the first time since 2014. Sheekabala has been in impressive form for Saudi club Al Raed.
“He has developed in a big way recently and he could get to play against Ghana,” Cuper said.


Felipe Massa ready for Formula E challenge around the streets of Riyadh

Updated 25 September 2018
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Felipe Massa ready for Formula E challenge around the streets of Riyadh

  • Not only will the December date mark the Kingdom’s entry into Formula E, but it will also mark Massa’s debut
  • Massa called the Formula E vehicles “the car of the next generation”

Noor Nugali Riyadh: Felipe Massa cannot wait to get behind the wheel of a Formula E car and jumpstart his new career when the spectacle of speed storms into Riyadh for the season opener on Dec. 15.
The Saudi Arabia capital was named as the newest stopping point for the sport in May, with it being the first race of a 13-race season, which sees the electric-powered cars tackle street circuits across the globe.
Not only will the December date mark the Kingdom’s entry into Formula E, but it will also mark Massa’s debut, having left the Formula One paddock for the growing sport. And the 37-year-old told Arab News he is excited about the prospect of tackling the streets of Ad Diriyah, the oldest part of the capital, in one of the electrically powered speed machines.
“I am ready for the race. It’s a fantastic feeling driving around the city, the town, it’s historical. It will be a big event,” Massa said at press conference to announce Saudi Arabian Airlines’ new long-term partnership as official airline partner of the all-electric series.
“I’m really happy to be a part of this new challenge for my career. In a new place and country, it’s motivating.”
Having won 11 Grands Prix during an illustrious career in F1, during which time he raced for Ferrari, some might think Massa would not be daunted by the move to Formula E. The Brazilian, however, is taking nothing for granted.
“It’s a big challenge for me to change categories, to Formula E,” he said, having got a chance to put some early practice in as he took a Gen2 car around the streets of the capital.
“Learning everything is a challenge. It’s different cars, different tracks and a different way of driving. I need to learn and grow to understand but I like new challenges.”
Massa called the Formula E vehicles “the car of the next generation” and it is hoped that the Ad Diriyah race helps the changing face of Saudi Arabia by inspiring more women to get behind the wheel in the Kingdom — something not lost on Massa.
“I heard that women are driving (in Saudi Arabia) now and that’s fantastic — hopefully in the future there will female racers,” he said.
“We are racing in a country (whose main export is oil), and we are racing with electric cars. I think it shows that this country wants to change its mentality and its thinking of the future. It’s really positive and I’m so happy to be a part of this.”
Thanks to the Bahrain and Abu Dhabi Grands Prix, the Middle East has long been associated with motorsport, and it is well known that the region is awash with petrolheads. The Riyadh Formula E race, however, will be international motorsport’s first move into Saudi Arabia.
But rather than look to bring F1 to the country his Abdul Aziz Bin Turki Al-Faisal, vice-chair of the General Sports Authority, revealed that Formula E was the only format they wanted to see in the capital.
“This is a truly game-changing moment for Saudi Arabia and one that we can share with the world,” he said. “It is very fitting that the such a futuristic and sustainable sport as Formula E is pointing to the future direction of our country.
“Saudi Arabia is home to literally millions of passionate young fans of motorsport, many of whom simply cannot believe that Felipe Massa took the Gen2 car around the streets of the capital today and that they now have a ‘home race’ on the Formula E calendar. So already the excitement is building, especially since we’re adding live music concerts to the weekend line-up.”
The track Massa and Co. will be tackling this December was revealed at the press conference. At 1.76 miles long, the first road circuit in the Middle East features 21 corners, a number of which are long flowing ones taken at high speed. It is hoped that the race will get both Saudi Arabia’s entry to the sport and the season itself off to a spectacular start, and in doing so inspire a new generation of speed demons.
Prince Khalid bin Sultan Al-Faisal Al-Saud, president of the Saudi Arabian Motor Federation, said: “Something we haven’t announced yet, is that there will be a support race for Formula E.
“It’s the Jaguar I-Pace trophy, it will race around the world with the Formula E circuit.
“Saudi Arabia will participate in that championship as a national team with two Saudi Arabian drivers and we will announce the names soon.”