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.


Petra Kvitova positive ahead of Dubai final against Belinda Bencic

Updated 22 February 2019
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Petra Kvitova positive ahead of Dubai final against Belinda Bencic

  • World No. 4 wins third three-setter of the week beat Hsieh Su-wei and claim place in the final.
  • Swiss star Bencic deals a forehand smash to Svitolina's chances of unprecedented hat-trick.

LONDON: If Petra Kvitova does get her hands on the Dubai trophy against Belinda Bencic on Saturday, she will be quick to admit she did it the hard way.
The two-time Wimbledon champion was once again made to toil at the Aviation Club as she finally overcame Hsieh Su-Wei 3-6, 6-2, 6-4. It was her third three-setter in four days and came about as much through sheer grit and determination as any superior groundstrokes or serves.
“Yeah, it was (tough),” the Czech said.
“It was a tough one, for sure. She really didn’t give me anything for free.
“It was a tough first set. I’m glad that I was able to came back in the second. Anyway I didn’t play great at the end of the first.”
Coming into the event the world No. 4 admitted she was undercooked and in need of some game time. While, in hindsight, the three-setters against Katerina Siniakova and Jennifer Brady in the first two rounds probably did her some good, another match that went the distance was probably not in the ideal script for the 2013 Dubai champion.
But Hsieh is a tricky opponent and she proved it once again on Centre Court. The world No. 31 hits two-handed shots off both sides and was trying to beat her fourth top-10 seed of the week. That included wins over Angelique Kerber in the third round and Karolina Pliskova in the quarterfinals.

Bencic will try to upset Kvitova in Saturday's final at the Aviation Club (AFP) 


She started off in much the same vein as she had finished against Kerber and Pliskova, hurrying Kvitova around the court and making life as uncomfortable as possible under the hot Dubai sun.
“She’s very tricky,” Kvitova said about Hsieh, who grabbed five games in a row to take the opening set and go up 1-0 in the second.
“I didn’t really play the best at the end of the first set. But I calmed down afterwards a little bit,” Kvitova said.
“With Hsieh, I need to be a little bit patient. ... It’s not really that easy to make those winners against her.”
While she has 
not consistently displayed her A-game this week it should come as no shock that Kvitova has made today’s final. It was the second seed’s 17th victory of 2019 — a feat bettered by no one — and it will be her third final of the season and 35th of her career. She revealed that her presence in the showdown is thanks to her mental toughness and she admitted that after a long week she will have to draw on that a lot today.
“I think I’m pleased with my kind of mental focus after losing the first set, that I was more calmer when I came back and played from the beginning of the second set,” Kvitova said.
“I still kind of felt that I can do that somehow — it was something weird.
“I’m a bit tired right now, to be honest. I have a final, so I don’t know how I going to recover. Hopefully I have a few hours to do something with me.”
Of her sparkling form so far this year she said: “It’s a bit weird, to be honest. I didn’t really expect anything like that. Well, to be honest, I didn’t expect anything, which I already achieved this year. For me, everything is just bonus.
“As I mentioned, the tennis, it’s a bit like escape this week. This is unbelievable to be in the final when I’m escaping from something. Yeah, very interesting.”
In the other semifinal Bencic once again upset the odds to overcome world No. 6 Elina Svitolina 6-2, 6-3, 7-6. The Swiss went into the clash as the underdog, but from the off the world No. 45 was aggressive and deservedly won.
In doing so she ended Svitolina’s 12-match winning streak in Dubai and ended the two-time defending champion’s hopes of becoming the first woman to win three Dubai titles in a row.