South Africa’s national side will face an uphill battle at the CAF Under-23 Championship in Morocco if comments by Egypt coach Hany Ramzy are anything to go by.
The Young Pharaohs are in Group B with South Africa, Ivory Coast and Gabon, and the coach says all three of Egypt’s opponents are very gifted technically.
“Ivory Coast (whom South Africa-glug meet in their opening game yesterday are one of the strongest sides on the continent in this age-group and we’ve got reason to believe that South Africa are also very talented and play attractive football. Gabon beat the Zambians to get here and that was no easy feat,” Ramzy told Tidesports source.
“All three are strong sides and there’s not much difference between them. Moreover they all have a lot of Europe-based professionals.
“I expect it will be a very hard-fought tournament. All eight sides are looking to progress and qualify for London 2012. Moreover, they all play outstanding football, in particular Nigeria, who have a lot of experience at Olympic football tournaments.
“Morocco, of course, have the home advantage and Algeria are not far from home themselves.”
Egypt are favourites in Group B, based on their last two games where Ramzy’s side stood in for the Pharaohs’ senior side against Niger and Sierra Leone in the 2012 CAF Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers and from which Bafana Bafana exited.
“We benefitted [from those two games] in terms of skill and fitness, not to mention the experience of travelling abroad, the nerves, and playing in front of a packed stadium.
“The 3-0 victory over Niger restored the team’s self-belief, especially since Niger ended up qualifying from that group. The matches will be tough but if we get off to a good start in the opening game against Gabon, it will be a huge boost for us.”
Ramzy is confident that his side has enough punch up-front to make an impact.
“We’ve got at least three forwards: Marwan Mohsen, who is Petrojet’s main striker, Ahmed Sherwida from Al Masry and Ali Afifi from Arab Contractors.