By Johnny Edward:
Egypt's national team coach, Hector Cuper, is counting on the duo of AS Roma's Mohamed Salah and Arsenal's midfielder, Mohamed Elneny, to beat Nigeria over two legs in next month's 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers.
Cuper also defended his team's upcoming friendly against Burkina Faso, insisting it's the best preparation for the encounter against Nigeria despite the absence of overseas-based players. Cuper further claims he isn't worried by the age of Essam El-Hadry who earned his first ever call up to the national team after 15 months.
"The fact that Salah and Elneny are playing for big European clubs is beneficial for the national team," Cuper explained to the media in a press conference at the soccer EFF Federation headquarters in Cairo, Egypt ahead of the camp launch on Tuesday.
"They are very humble and every time they adapt quickly with their teammates for the sake of the team," Cuper added.
The duo were instrumental to the Pharoahs position on top of Group G of the Nations Cup qualifiers with a maximum six points after wins over Tanzania and Chad.
"I am not worried about calling up El-Hadary, as his age is not a problem for me at all. He is a very good keeper and he proved that in recent league games," Cuper said about the former Ahly, Zamalek and Ismaily star.
Egypt are bidding to reach the Nations Cup for the first time since winning the last of their record seven titles in 2010.
Cuper also adds that the door was open to other players ahead of the Nigeria encounter.
"The Burkina Faso match will be the best preparation for the Nigeria clash despite the absence of foreign based players. It will be a good opportunity to examine the local players – the best in the league at the time being,"
"The national team's door is still open for any new player ahead of the Nigeria encounter. The selected players must do their best to prove their worth and cement a place in the starting line-up," Cuper said.