Egyptian national team coach, Javier Aguirre, has told our correspondent that the international friendly game between the Super Eagles of Nigeria and the Pharaohs of Egypt was a good test for the two countries as they prepare for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations:
How would you describe the friendly game between Nigeria and Egypt?
Nigeria is a country that loves football and the atmosphere already shows that it is going to be a special match. The game was an opportunity for both sides as they already preparing for the AFCON; it was a good test for the two teams.
You left Mo Salah out of the game. Why?
I deliberately left Salah and some other top players out of the game because I want to see new discoveries. I used the game against Niger and the one with Nigeria to see what they (new players) can bring to the table ahead of the finals in AFCON.
It was my decision to check new players and I am glad with what they did in the two matches. We took some players from the local league and also some other young players were given opportunity and they see it as a big responsibility wearing the national team jersey.
Sometimes young players need a little boost from the big players with experience but so far, they are doing very well on and off the field and I am very happy with what they are doing.
What’s your take on the decision of CAF to move the AFCON to summer and also the expansion from 16 countries to 24 countries?
When I was coaching in Spain, I used to have African players playing for my team and during the tick of the season in January and February, the players will have to leave and play for their country.
For me as a coach, I prefer the summer, apart from getting all the players available, the eyes of the whole world will be on the competition compared to January and February when all the league season are on.
It is very good for Africa as a continent (expansion from 16 to 24 countries). We have to develop the game, now we see teams like Tanzania and Burundi coming to AFCON, which is good for the development of football and I love it.
The whole country agog ahead of the AFCON, it is a big party for us, we can’t wait for June to do good things for the country
As the host nation, what’s the situation like back home in Egypt, and is it an extra motivation for the Pharaoh?
Lots of motivation, extra ordinary challenge for us, the whole country agog ahead of the AFCON, it is a big party for us, we can’t wait for June to do good things for the country.
Are you under any pressure to deliver the trophy?
The pressure is always in our job, I have to do something special, it is a big opportunity for me to give something back to the country, pressure is normal every day, but it is an opportunity and a challenge, we have to win.
Emmanuel Amuneke, who once played in Egypt during his career as a player just qualified Tanzania for the AFCON, what can you say about this?
It was a wonderful thing for him, I watched their game; the players played very well, young players. I am happy for him, he used to play in Egypt and I hope to see him again in Egypt.