Javier Aguirre in pole position to be appointed head coach of Egypt

Javier Aguirre is in pole position to be appointed head coach of Egypt, perhaps as early as this week. (AFP)
Updated 29 July 2018
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Javier Aguirre in pole position to be appointed head coach of Egypt

  • The Mexican heads a shortlist of four candidates, released last week
  • Bosnia’s Vahid Halilhodzic, Quique Sanchez Flores of Spain and Colombian coach Jorge Luis Pinto also being considered

LONDON: Javier Aguirre is in pole position to be appointed head coach of Egypt, perhaps as early as this week.
The Mexican heads a shortlist of four candidates, released last week, that includes Bosnia’s Vahid Halilhodzic, Quique Sanchez Flores of Spain and Colombian coach Jorge Luis Pinto.
One of the quartet will definitely succeed Hector Cuper, whose three-year reign as Pharoahs’ boss ended after the recent World Cup. The Russian campaign saw the side lose all three matches — to the hosts, Uruguay and Saudi Arabia. There was also a lot of criticism of Cuper’s tactics, which were seen as overly cautious and defensive. As result the EFA is keen to have not only a new face but also a fresh approach.
The body is looking to make a swift appointment with qualification for the 2019 African Cup of Nations resuming in September, with Aguirre is the likeliest man to get the nod, according to an official at the Egyptian Football Association.
“He should arrive in Egypt in the next few days to enter the final stage of negotiations and if there are no obstacles that arise then Aguirre will get the job and it should happen quite quickly,” the official told Arab News.
“Halilhodzic has admirers but Aguirre ticks all the boxes with the experience and success he has had and also the way his teams usually play football.”
An EFA board member and part of the task force formed to find a new coach, Essam Abdel-Fatah has also sung the Mexican’s praises.
“At the moment, he is the closest to the national team as he has considerable experience and a high profile, he said, referring to the 59 year-old’s varied international career.
“He has coached the national teams of Japan and Mexico as well as club teams like Espanyol in Spain and also was the coach of Al-Wahda in the United Arab Emirates,” added Abdel-Fatah.
The deal is not quite done yet, however.
“The negotiations with the four coaches who were part of the shortlist have gone well, all four of them,” Abdel-Fatah said before revealing that the list does not have to be limited to four as the Mexican coach from the 2018 World Cup became available at the end of last week.
“There are other coaches who could be considered who were outside the original nominations, like Colombian coach Juan Carlos Osorio.”
With Flores lacking national team experience and Pinto never having coached outside South or Central America, the job looks to be, however, Aguirre’s to lose. Also in the 59-year-old’s favor is that Halilhodzic, his main rival for the job, is in demand elsewhere. South Korea are interested in the coach sacked by Japan in April, as are his former team Algeria. Halilhodzic led “The Fennecs” to the second round of the 2014 World Cup, where they gave eventual winners Germany a huge scare, taking the match to extra time before losing 2-1.
Whoever gets the job will have to work with a local assistant who will act as a link between the players and the coach as well as the coach and the federation.
“It is important to have an Egyptian coach involved in the development of the national team,” Abdel-Fatah said. “We haven’t made a decision as to who the assistant will be. That will be discussed after we hire the head coach and discuss their training staff.”
It may be useful to have some local expertise especially as star player Mohamed Salah is, according to reports during the World Cup, considering quitting the national team. The Liverpool star was apparently upset at being used for political and propaganda purposes by the controversial Ramzan Kadyrov, leader of Chechnya, where Egypt were based during the tournament.
On the pitch, the first big test for the new man will be a vital 2019 African Cup of Nations qualifier against Niger on Sept. 7. Egypt are looking to bounce back from their opening game defeat at the hands of Tunisia in Group J, one that also contains Swaziland.


Ahmed Barman out to toast Al-Ain success in FIFA Club World Cup

Updated 11 December 2018
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Ahmed Barman out to toast Al-Ain success in FIFA Club World Cup

  • Tournament gets under way on Wednesday when Al-Ain take on Team Wellington at home.
  • UAE midfielder sure his side can cause a few shocks.

LONDON: While he is only too aware of the quality opposition they have to face, Al-Ain midfielder Ahmed Barman is backing “The Boss” to scare a few teams in the FIFA Club World Cup.
The tournament gets under way when the UAE outfit face Team Wellington on their home ground in the opener today. Last year saw fellow Arabian Gulf League side Al-Jazira reach the semifinal where they gave Real Madrid a huge fright before narrowly losing 2-1. And inspired by that march to the last four, Barman is looking for Al-Ain to go one better and become the first Emirati side to make the final.
“The FIFA Club World Cup is a global competition coveted by every club,” Barman said. “Al-Ahli, Al-Jazira and Al-Wahda participated in this tournament before and did their part, putting the UAE on the world map. We at Al-Ain hope to reach the semi-final, as Al-Jazira did, or do even better.”
Before any tournament it is only natural to dream of glory and lifting the trophy in front of adoring fans. But the midfielder is not getting too cocky, revealing that despite having home advantage Al-Ain are taking absolutely nothing for granted, starting with Wednesday’s clash against the Kiwis.
“There’s no doubt that we’re aiming to reach the final and face a giant like Real Madrid, but first we have to focus on our opening match against Team Wellington,” the 24-year-old said.
“We need to win to progress from this round and play the subsequent games until we reach the final against Real Madrid and show a standard of play the UAE can be proud of.”
Barman is not anticipating an easy opener.
“Team Wellington are a very good team with considerable ability. They won their local league and the OFC Champions League, which proves they’re powerful.
“So, all our focus is on this opening match. We’re annualizing our opponents to understand their capabilities as we prepare to perform well on the pitch and get positive result.”
The UAE champions did not have the best preparation for their stab at Club World Cup glory, losing 5-2 to Al-Wasl in the UAE President’s Cup at the weekend.
That result, while clearly not ideal, has not bothered the side’s coach.
“We cannot win every game, what is gone is gone, it’s full concentration on the match ahead,” Zoran Mamic said.
“There are no rules that Al-Ain cannot lose games, that’s why I don’t make any drama.”
But while Barman was keen to invoke the memory of Al-Jazira’s march to the last four, his boss was less so, telling his team to focus on the match at hand before getting ahead of themselves.
“We are not here to talk about last year, just as we are not here to talk about the future,” the Croatian said. “We are here to represent the club in the best possible way. We focus on the match at hand and everything will take care of itself.”
Of today’s opponents he added: “We have watched all their games, we know their strengths and where they are not so strong. They are particularly good offensively, they play with fast wingers and a striker who is a good scorer, they play a system that is unusual to us because no teams in the Emirates play with three in the last line. If we do our job we will (have) a good match.”