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Soccer News of Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Source: Daily Graphic

Egypt, no big deal - Gyan

Stars captain, Asamoah Gyan, has played down fears about Egypt’s threat to Ghana’s 2014 World Cup ambitions, saying the Pharaohs will be no big deal for the Ghanaians despite their pedigree in African football and their impeccable record in the qualifying campaign.

Last Monday’s play-off draws in Egypt paired the Black Stars against the seven-time African champions, the only side on the continent to have a 100 per cent record in qualifying, and perhaps the one non-seeded team all the five seeds would have hoped to avoid.

Gyan, Ghana’s top scorer at the World Cup finals, is hoping to lead to a third successive appearance at football’s biggest global gathering and does not expect the Egyptians to stand in their way when the two sides clash in a two-leg playoff for one of Africa’s five slots for Brazil 2014.

The Al Ain striker, who was part of the Black Stars team which defeated Egypt 3-0 in pre-Nations Cup friendly in Abu Dhabi last January, said Kwasi Appiah’s team would be up to the task when they take to the field to face Bob Bradley’s side in the first leg encounter next month in Kumasi.

“We are well motivated to make it to Brazil and I strongly believe Egypt can't stop us. That is not to say they are pushovers: Their track record on the continent is enough to scare any opponent, but we have conditioned our minds to make a third streak World Cup appearance,” he told Accra-based Happy FM moments after the draw in Cairo last Monday.

“We will play our part by going the extra mile to make sure we qualify, we're only praying for good health. I believe we are mentally prepared for this challenge.”

The Stars captain reckoned that the absence of a league in Egypt due to civil strife in the country for more than a year now, had given the Egyptians the luxury of time to prepare for the playoff.

“Their league is off now so they have been camping a lot and they are very formidable so we have to be equally prepared to face them.

“It is a tricky tie but as we are determined to qualify for Brazil we have to be mentally ready to face them.”

Gyan’s confidence notwithstanding, Egypt has a superior record against Ghana, having posted 10 victories and five draws in 21 clashes in all competitions since the two sides first clashed on November 13, 1959 in an Olympic Games qualifier which the Egyptians won 2-1.

Meanwhile, Egypt’s players are talking tough ahead of the showdown with Ghana, insisting they would bread their World Cup hoodoo at the expense of the Black Stars.

Veteran midfielder, Mohammed Aboutreika, said he was happy they would play Ghana instead of north-African rivals Tunisia or Algeria, who were both seeded for the draw.

"I'm glad to avoid the tension that accompanies games against Arab nations," said the man who earned his 100th cap for Egypt in their 4-2 win over Guinea in their final Group qualifier last week.

"The pressure becomes much less against non-Arab teams, plus it would give a chance for better Arabic representation at the World Cup."

Egyptian striker Amr Zaki assured the Egyptian fans not to worry about the Ghana threat because the Pharaohs have the pedigree and home advantage in the second leg against Africa’s best performers at the last two World Cup tournaments.

"As a team and as fans we should not worry of playing against Ghana. They too know how much we are a tough team plus we played against them many times before and we beat them. Yes, they are a very strong team but I am sure that we can handle them again," Zaki told supersport.com.

For Egypt’s American coach Bradley, who was in charge of the US team, which lost 2-1 to Ghana in the quarter-final of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, home advantage in the return leg match was music to his ears.

“I wasn’t really bothered about avoiding one team in particular. All I wanted was for us to play the second leg at home,” Bradley noted.