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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 13 December 2018

So far so good for Javier Aguirre and Egypt but Tunisia match 'will really show how he’s working'

The former Al Wahda manager has won all three matches in charge of the national team to qualify for next year's Africa Cup of Nations

Javier Aguirre has won all three matches in charge of Egypt since succeeding Hector Cuper following a disastrous World Cup. The National
Javier Aguirre has won all three matches in charge of Egypt since succeeding Hector Cuper following a disastrous World Cup. The National

Javier Aguirre will face his first real test as Egypt manager when his side take on Tunisia in their Africa Cup of Nations qualifier on Friday, according to celebrated former international Hazem Emam.

Aguirre, appointed as Hector Cuper’s successor in August, has gotten off to a 100 per cent start, overseeing a victory against Niger and two against eSwatini as Egypt secured their place at next year’s continental event with two rounds to spare.

They now take on Group J leaders Tunisia in Alexandria in their penultimate qualifier, knowing a win would draw them level on 12 points at the top of the standings.

Aguirre, who spent two years in the UAE with Al Wahda until May 2017, has helped lift the mood following an awful World Cup, in which Cuper’s defensive philosophy was heavily criticised as Egypt exited the tournament this summer bottom of Group A with three defeats from three matches.

However, there have been obvious signs of improvement since Aguirre arrived.

“He’s different than Cuper,” said Emam, who represented Egypt 87 times between 1995 and 2005 and now sits on the board of the Egyptian Football Association. “Cuper stayed with us around four years. He made good results: we went to the Africa Cup of Nations final [last year] after we hadn’t been in seven years; the World Cup after 28 years. But he had some negative points - that he works in a defensive way.

“Aguirre is different. He tries to play offensive football. We've scored 12 goals in three matches, which is a good number. But, to be honest, we’ve not played against big teams: it’s against Niger, eSwatini. The next match against Tunisia will be the real match.

“But his way is good for us. In Egypt, we love to play football and have the ball, focus on possession. So the people will love his approach. But the next match will really show how he’s working, show him in an important match.”

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Egypt are aiming to bounce back from a hugely disappointing campaign in Russia, although they were not helped by the injury to star man Mohamed Salah prior to the tournament.

After a narrow 1-0 defeat to Uruguay, Salah returned against the hosts but could not help his side avoid a 3-1 loss. Egypt were then beaten 2-1 by Saudi Arabia in their final group encounter to round off a miserable showing on the global stage.

“It was very bad, a very hard time for us at the World Cup,” Emam said. “Because we had some expectations that were more than this: at least we can win one match, or have a draw.

“The first two matches we did great, not bad. Against Uruguay we lost in the last minute, and Russia is a big team and showed how well they can work against Croatia and Spain later in the tournament – they made a good World Cup.

“But the last match was a disaster against Saudi Arabia. The worst thing is that we didn’t play well. You can play well and lose, that’s normal. But we didn’t play football. For us it was a disaster and so we tried to change the strategy with Aguirre. We hope that the next period will be better.”