Egypt coach Javier Aguirre knows “80-90 percent" of his AFCON squad

Javier Aguirre and Egypt are one of the favorites for this summer's tournament taking place on home soil. (AFP)
Updated 21 March 2019
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Egypt coach Javier Aguirre knows “80-90 percent" of his AFCON squad

  • Mexican coach looking at fringe players in matches against Niger and Nigeria this weekend.
  • Pressure will be on the Pharaohs with AFCON taking place on home soil this summer.

LONDON: Javier Aguirre already knows up to 90 percent of his African Cup of Nations squad, according to his Egypt assistant coach Hany Ramzy.

The Pharaohs face Niger in their final AFCON qualifier tomorrow, with qualification guaranteed, before facing Nigeria in a friendly three days later.

Both matches are effectively warm-up clashes for the tournament in Egypt this summer, and coach Aguirre is now thinking more about tactics than personnel.

“Aguirre has settled on 80-90 percent of the names that will join our squad at the African Cup. We feel comfortable about this,” Ramzy told King Fut website.

For this weekend’s matches Aguirre has left his big-name players such as Mohamed Salah and Ahmed Hegazi at home so he can have a look at some of those on the fringe of the squad. A tough match is expected in Nigeria and that could be the last chance some have to impress the Mexican coach, with the final squad announcement expected in two months.

“(The final squad) will involve a bigger vision after we have seen the new faces play at this camp,” Ramzy said.

“The Niger and Nigeria matches are a chance to examine new faces that could have a role in the African Cup, especially as they will play under a lot pressure against Nigeria.

“We want to give the youth players a chance, and also to prepare and provide them with the experience of preparatory camps, even if they aren’t selected for the tournament.”

After last year’s World Cup disappointment, when Salah and Co lost all three matches in Russia, there will be a lot of pressure on the Pharaohs to do well in front of their expectant fans.


Liverpool seal semifinal date with Barca after beating Porto

Updated 18 April 2019
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Liverpool seal semifinal date with Barca after beating Porto

  • Barcelona eliminated Manchester United 4-0 on aggregate on Tuesday
  • Tottenham advanced on away goals despite a 4-3 loss at Manchester City on Wednesday

PORTO, Portugal: For the second year in a row, Porto had no answer to Liverpool’s attacking trio of Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino.
A year after the forward scored all goals in a 5-0 rout of the Portuguese champions in the round of 16 of the Champions League, the trio combined again to lead Liverpool back to the semifinals of the European tournament.
They netted a goal each in a comfortable 4-1 win over Porto on Wednesday, with Virgil van Dijk also scoring as Liverpool advanced 6-1 on aggregate after winning the first leg 2-0 at home.
Liverpool, which lost in the final last season, will now face Barcelona, which eliminated Manchester United 4-0 on aggregate on Tuesday. Tottenham advanced on away goals despite a 4-3 loss at Manchester City in the other quarterfinal on Wednesday.
Mane had a hat trick at the Estadio do Dragao last season, with Salah and Firmino adding a goal each. The Senegalese player led the way again this time, opening the scoring with a 26th-minute goal that was confirmed by video review after being initially disallowed for offside.
Porto had started well and showed signs it might be able to reverse the first-leg deficit, but Liverpool took control after Mane’s goal and cruised to victory.
“We knew they wouldn’t be able to keep up the pressure of the first 30 minutes,” Liverpool coach Jürgen Klopp said. “In the second half Porto’s energy levels dropped, so it was easier for us to control the game.”
Liverpool had barely gotten close to Iker Casillas’s goal when Salah picked up a pass inside the area and sent a low pass to Mane, who came sliding in behind the defenders near the far post to score his 14th goal in 21 Champions League appearances.
Mane looked offside at first, and few Liverpool players complained when the flag went up, but video review showed he was in legal position before making his run to the ball.
“I was thinking it was offside, to be honest,” Mane said. “I was surprised.”
The goal hurt Porto’s morale and the team struggled to keep pushing forward. The pace slowed significantly and Liverpool took advantage, with Salah finding the net from inside the area after a pass by Trent Alexander-Arnold on a quick counterattack in the 65th.
Firmino, who came off the bench after halftime, and Van Dijk added to the lead with late headers — in the 77th and 84th minutes, respectively. Porto’s lone goal came through a 69th-minute header by Militao, the defender who is joining Real Madrid at the end of the season.
Mane could have scored his second goal of the game in the 73rd but he missed an open net after dribbling past Casillas on a breakaway.
Porto, which eliminated Roma in the round of 16, had won all of its four home games in the Champions League this season, outscoring opponents 11-3.
It was playing in the quarterfinals for the first time since 2014-15, and was trying to reach the semifinals for the first time since it won the tournament in 2004 under Jose Mourinho for its biggest triumph.
After eliminating the Portuguese champions last season, Liverpool eventually made it to the final and lost to Real Madrid.
Porto was boosted by the return of two key players who missed the first leg because of yellow-card suspensions: captain Hector Herrera and defender Pepe, a three-time Champions League winner with Real Madrid.
“The result is unfair, but these things happen in football,” Pepe said. “We had a fantastic Champions League campaign.”
Klopp made a series of changes to the lineup from the first leg, revamping the midfield and using Firmino as a second-half substitute.