Ahead of next month’s Africa U-20 Cup of Nations, hosts Egypt are sweating over the threat Nigeria and Senegal pose to their chances of qualifying from the group, reports.
The 2023 U-20 AFCON tournament will be played in Egypt between February 19 and March 11 with the top four teams qualifying for the U-20 World Cup in Indonesia in May.
The young Pharaohs, drawn in Group A alongside Nigeria, Senegal and Mozambique, are aiming to lift their first continental title since 2013.
“Of course, there are some concerns about the presence of Nigeria and Senegal in particular, but Senegal more because Egypt has had bad luck in the past months with them, even in Beach Soccer,” a top Egyptian team official told .
In February 2022, Senegal beat Egypt on penalties at the delayed 2021 Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon to claim their first continental title.
Six weeks later, the Teranga Lions also edged the Pharaohs 3-1 on penalties at the end of a tempestuous World Cup play-offs second leg in Dakar.
Boulaye Dia scored in the fourth minute as Senegal won the second leg 1-0 for a 1-1 aggregate draw at the new Diamniadio Olympic Stadium.
The nerve-filled shootout started with four misses, including from both captains — Kalidou Koulibaly and then Mohamed Salah — but Sadio Mane won the shootout, reprising his heroics in last month’s Africa Cup of Nations final.
Egypt U-20 national team coach, Mahmoud Gaber, has called up four foreign-based players to bolster his squad ahead of the championship.
Gaber drafted FC Vizela goalkeeper Ahmed Nader El-Sayed, Udinese forward Salah Basha, Borussia Monchengladbach’s Mostafa Ashraf and Hoffenheim defender Tebo Gabriel to the team.
The top two teams in each of the three groups will qualify for the quarter-finals, alongside two other best losers.
The four semi-finalists automatically qualify for the U-20 World Cup in Indonesia in May.
Meanwhile, with less than five weeks to the start of the competition, 10 players invited from the Nigerian Professional Football League to the Flying Eagles are yet to report to camp, our correspondent has learnt.
The players yet to report to camp are Benjamin Frederick (Nasarawa United), Aminu Yusuf (Lobi Stars), Augustine Njoku (Abia Warriors), Daniel Daga (Dakkada), Ogbelu Onoche (Nasarawa United), Adams Olalekan (Remo Stars), Emma Ochegbu (Plateau United), Segun Otusanoya, Ayuba Francis (Nasarawa United) and Shatima Abani (Plateau United).
“We are still expecting the players from the NPFL to join up with the squad because they are with their respective clubs who are involved in games this weekend,” a team official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told .
“So far training has been good and the players in camp are doing well to justify their inclusion in the team. We just have to ensure the team is ready for the tournament.”