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.


Blue Point focused on Al-Quoz glory after magical run at Meydan

Updated 15 February 2019
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Blue Point focused on Al-Quoz glory after magical run at Meydan

  • Star sprinter proves class with easy G2 win in Dubai.
  • Charlie Appleby hopeful over Al-Quoz Sprint chances.

LONDON: Star sprinter Blue Point is on course for glory in the much-anticipated Al-Quoz Sprint on Dubai World Cup night. That is the message from Godolphin after a brilliant victory in the G2 Meydan Sprint on Thursday.
The Dubai-based stable have long held high hopes for the Shamardal horse and the five-year-old’s win confirmed that they have something special on their hands.
Blue Point took up the running from Faatinah with more than two furlongs to race and readily opened up daylight over his rivals approaching the final furlong, quickly going clear.
For Charlie Appleby the performance only went to prove that Blue Point has it in him to steal the show on Dubai World Cup night in March.
“If he brought his class, he was going to be good enough to win, but we had left a bit on him because the G1 Al-Quoz Sprint on Dubai World Cup night is our target,” the Godolphin trainer said.
“No disrespect to this race, and we were pleased to win it, but it was the right stepping stone onto the Al-Quoz.
“I was pleased to see him in the paddock, more so than a couple of days ago when it looked like he had a couple of pounds left on him. He had tightened up a bit.
“We were always confident that he was going to come forward for whatever he did. He is a five-year-old now and a professional — getting better with racing. He came alive two furlongs down and it was only a matter of William asking him to pick up and do a bit of work.”
The “Boys in Blue” always place a lot of focus on the World Cup night and a second win in the Al-Quoz sprint — Appleby saddled Jungle Cat to victory last year — is one of the aims for the famous race meeting in March.
“I am very pleased and, all being well, he should step forward for it and all roads will now lead to the Al-Quoz Sprint,” Appleby said.
“I feel that he is not overly exposed as a sprinter — we looked after him as a two-year-old and a three-year-old, while he wasn’t over-raced last year so he is entitled still to be learning.”
Added to the optimism surrounding Blue Point is the fact that William Buick feels he is coming to form at just the right time.
“It was a nice comeback opportunity for Blue Point and he did it very comfortably, doing everything right. It was lovely to see him come back like that,” the jockey said. “He has probably matured a little bit compared to 12 months ago and the biggest difference this year is that he is a G1 winner this time. He had proved himself and feels like a very confident horse — there is no question that he is a top sprinter.”
Meanwhile, Godolphin’s star G1 performers Hartnell, Best Of Days and Alizee have been entered for the world’s richest mile race, the $5 million All-Star Mile to be run at Flemington on March 16.
Head trainer James Cummings confirmed that all three horses will seek a place in the famous race.
“We think it’s great the way in which it really engages with not only the racing audience, but potentially reaching out beyond just that and bringing in a wider audience from not only Australia, but from around the world,” Cummings said. “We’re really excited to be a part of the richest mile race anywhere in the world.”