LONDON: Javier Aguirre claimed his hopes for Egyptian success at this summer’s African Cup of Nations (AFCON) have not taken a hit after the Pharaohs’ 1-0 defeat in Nigeria.
Aguirre’s side were a goal down through a Paul Onuachu strike after just eight seconds and looked toothless in Asaba just three months before Egypt host the biennial continental battle. It was the Mexican’s first defeat as Pharaohs coach — coming in his sixth match in the dugout, a run that included five wins and a draw. Before the clash, however, Aguirre decided to try out some of the squad’s younger players dropping big names such as Mohamed Salah and Ahmed Hegazi, and that means he is not bothered by the loss against one of Egypt’s rivals for the continental crown this summer.
The Egypt boss was in relaxed mood after the 1-0 defeat in Nigeria. (AFP)
“I think that it was a match we tried our best but the difference was the first five second of the game,” Aguirre said.
“My main target was to examine new faces by giving them a chance; a game that we played in difficult weather conditions.
“Sure I wanted to win the match despite the fact that the result wasn’t influential.
“The (match against) Nigeria match (provided a good) experience. I asked for this game as Nigeria are among the strongest teams in Africa.
“Resting big names like Mohamed Salah was to give the chance for new faces.
“We have benefited a lot from the game as we tried a number of fresh faces amid our strategy to strengthen the team ahead of the African Cup of Nations.”
After last year’s World Cup disappointment, when Salah and Co. lost all three matches in Russia to finish bottom of Group A, there will be a lot of pressure on the Pharaohs to do well in front of their expectant fans. Aguirre was brought in to not only achieve success but to do so with more flourish than his predecessor, Hector Cuper. The Argentine was considered too risk-averse and alienated many fans with the drab, dull football Egypt served up during his time in the dugout. Taking place at home, after Cameroon was stripped of hosting rights following serious delays with its preparations, and in the summer rather than usual winter spot, Aguirre is ready to take on the pressure and looking forward to the tournament.
“For me as a coach, I prefer (to play it) in summer. In January and February, not all the eyes of the world are in the African cup,” the Mexican said.
“Now in the summer, you will see lot Americans, Asians, Europeans who want to be here in the competition to watch young players in the tournament; it is going to be better for Africa and of course, the weather will be good then.”