Bahaa El Din Sherif Hassan, a top Egyptian radio and TV sports analyst based in Cairo, has spoken with Goal.com about what may happen on Thursday night in Benguela, when Egypt take on Algeria.
Bahaa - Well as an Egyptian who has been following the performances of my national team, I feel the next match is very important for many reasons. Firstly, it’s the last step towards reaching the final and hopefully winning the title for the seventh time, which is the least we expect from the Pharaohs – a squad with enough experience and capability to compete not only on a continental level but beyond.
Secondly, I feel sad that we failed to qualify for the World Cup because of the loss to Algeria in the play-off in Sudan and because history does not remember how good teams are but only remembers results. I believe Egypt will prove to the world on Thursday that they were supposed to be in South Africa 2010.
Goal.com - What do you think will happen on the pitch? Will it be a good game or a rough game?
Bahaa – It’s a known fact that some north African teams like Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco always play it rough, and throughout the year the Egyptian national team and clubs have been facing off against teams from these countries in very rough games. But I think on Thursday both coaches will give strict instructions to their players to cool it down, save their energy and avoid being sent off and being suspended in the final match.
Goal.com - Some analysts say Egypt are a more experienced side and know better how to play under pressure, will that give them an edge over Algeria?
Bahaa – Perhaps. See, the Egyptian team perform better in tournaments than in qualification matches, and with the experience the players have gathered from the two previous AFCONs and the Confederations Cup, I think they will have an edge over Algeria, who have not participated in such events for a long time.
Goal.com - Egypt are looking for revenge, Algeria want to hold their ground. How will this explode in the end?
Bahaa - I feel if the Pharaohs go into this match with the only purpose being revenge, they’ll lose. The players really want to redeem themselves in the eyes of the Egyptian people, as well as showing the world that they were not a bad team just because they lost to Algeria in Sudan. Egypt will enter the game with one objective in mind... qualifying for the final and then winning a 7th title, that’s all.
Goal.com - Some pundits say the outcome of the match will be decided by the two coaches, and that seems to favour Egypt because their coach has a better record, with two Nations Cup titles, right?
Bahaa - If that is what counts we would have qualified to the World Cup. Hassan Shehata's record and experience are not enough, the strength of the team is important too. I feel this combination will create a winning spirit capable of prevailing on Thursday evening.
Goal.com - Do you think the moral advantage of the win in the Sudan play-off may fuel the Algerians and haunt the Egyptians?
Bahaa - Any match between north African teams is a derby, no matter who is playing. It is always fuelled up by the teams, players and people, and if you go into the records of matches played between Egypt and Algeria, you will see there were always situations where they faced off with different outcomes.
For example, Egypt qualified for the 1990 World Cup after winning the game with Algeria 1-0 in Cairo, in a scenario quite similar to what happened in the last qualification round. And again in the same year of 1990, Algeria managed to knock the Egyptian team out of the Africa Cup of Nations and win the trophy for the first and only time in their history. So, there is always history somewhere in any north African derby that tends to cause some agitation.
Goal.com - Do you personally fear trouble in the streets of Algiers and Cairo between fans of the two countries after the match, no matter who wins?
Bahaa - Neither government wants to experience the same tension as the aftermath of the Sudan playoff. There will be precautions to make sure troublemakers who mix sports and politics don’t have their way this time. Egypt and Algeria have had good relations. I think there will be more control.
Goal.com - There is this very sensitive issue whereby most of the Arab world seems to be supporting Algeria, like during the Sudan playoff. Why not Egypt?
Bahaa - No one can say who exactly was supporting who during the play-off game. Usually, as Arab countries, we wanted the best representative in the World Cup and as these two were the best, the Arab world was divided between them. The matter of who was supporting who was based on personal feelings and love for each country and not on the performances on the field of play.
Goal.com - What is your prediction?
Bahaa - Egypt will win with plenty of goals. But whoever wins tomorrow's game will win the tournament.