The National U-23 coach, Ibrahim Tanko is likely to face the biggest test in the ongoing U-23 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) tournament when his team encounter host nation Egypt in their second Group A match.
Tanko, whose side is seeking qualification for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics Games drew 1-1 with Cameroon in their first group match last Friday, but against Egypt, they need to claim the maximum points to actualise their dream of venturing into the Tokyo 2020 tournament.
Egypt who won their first Group A match against Mali also need the maximum points to strengthen their position on the top spot of Group A regarded at the Group of Death in the tournament.
Considering the opposition ahead of him in today’s epic match, coach Tanko has described it as difficult, but assured of a positive result.
To coach Tanko, facing a host team comes with a pressure, especially considering that the vociferous supporters would be rooting for their team to motivate the players to perform.
“Facing the hosts comes with pressure, but we can manage that. Egypt has many good players and I watched some games for them.
“We also have some quality players and the boys know the stakes playing against Egypt in the second game but I’m sure we will scale through,” he noted.
Stressing, he said “Our target is a place in the Olympics, so we need to win our next games to realise our dreams.
Ghana’s Evans Mensah, adjudged the Best Player of the Match against Cameroon last Friday, was also optimistic that Egypt cannot be the standing block between Ghana and their dream of booking a place to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
“ Just like Egypt, we also have quality players, but our target is a place in the Olympics, so we need to win our match against Egypt today“ he said.
Interestingly, coach Shawky Gharib of Egypt is equally anxious of the maximum points and considers their match against Ghana as crucial for their forward match to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
He says he was therefore not leaving anything to chance as they play at the Cairo International Stadium where they have a good support base.
“It's a very important game for us. We take each game at a time and now it's Ghana who are a very good team with good players. We suffered numerous injuries before and into the tournament and this is unfavourable for us, but we trust those who are with the team now”.
His striker, Mostafa Mohamed, added to it when he said the game against Ghana was key to their semi-final as they battled for a spot in the Olympic Games next year.
“We studied Ghana well and this game is our key to the semifinal. We respect Ghana but our target is the maximum points.
The Mali game was tough but thank God we won. We have to keep focused till we achieve our target which is nothing but the title and Olympics ticket”.
Tuesday 12 November Group B fixtures
15:00 Côte D'Ivoire v South Africa
18:00 Zambia v Nigeria