'I wanted to try new players' - Egypt coach Javier Aguirre unfazed by Niger draw

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KHALED DESOUKI
The Argentine's assistant had admitted that the games against Niger and Nigeria are auditioning for the rest of their Afcon squad

Javier Aguirre says testing his new Egypt players was more 'important' than their final 2019 African Cup of Nations qualifiers result against Niger.

The Pharaohs were held to a 1-1 draw after a late Amadou Moutari effort cancelled out Mahmoud Trezeguet's 47th-minute opener at the Stade Général Seyni Kountché.

12 points from five previous qualifying games had sealed the north Africans' spot at the biennial tournament, winning hosting rights in January, however, meant all that mattered less.

Aguirre then opted to inundate his 25-man selection for the final Group J game and Tuesday's friendly against Nigeria with inexperienced players, leaving the likes of Mohamed Salah and Ahmed Hegazi out.

Saturday's clash saw debut handed to five players. Pyramids’ duo Ahmed Mansour and Nabil Dunga, Al Ahly loanee Amar Hamdi - who gave a fantastic assist for Trezeguet's curtain raiser - all started the game, with Ismaily’s Abdelrahman Magdi and Zamalek loanee Mostafa Mohamed making appearances in the second half.

Players on the fringes were also afforded opportunities to impress the Argentine tactician, whom assistant manager Hany Ramzy disclosed has 80-90% of his Afcon squad ready .

According to Aguirre, sharing the spoils - and ending up as runners-up behind Tunisia - does not deflect the aim of the encounter.

“We wanted to win, of course, although the result wouldn’t have any effect,” Aguirre said after the game.

“I wanted to try new players, that was the most important thing.

“Experimenting with new players by giving them the opportunity in this game, which was played in very difficult weather conditions, was very important."

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Egypt will make the trip to Asaba for a tune-up game with the Super Eagles at the Stephen Keshi Stadium on Tuesday.

Gernot Rohr's men, who finished their qualification series on a high, are sweating on the fitness of topscorer Odion Ighalo, who was hauled off in the closing stages of Seychelles game.

The Shanghai Shenhua striker had to train alone on Sunday. Also, first-choice goalkeeper Francis Uzoho, Victor Osimhen and Valentine Ozornwafor have been released from the senior national camp to join Nigeria U23 team ahead of a must-win U23 Afcon qualifier against Libya.

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