CAIRO: The local fans are ecstatic that Egypt has reached the quarterfinals at the African Cup of Nations.
The national team s coach, however, is urging his players to be wary when they take on Congo in Cairo on Friday.
Congo is not easy by any means, said coach Hassan Shehata, who watched the team s last Group B game against Cameroon. From now on, all the matches should be treated like cup [finals] and we have to take every game one at a time … We do not underrate Congo. We have seen them play.
Also Friday, Guinea will be hoping for another upset when it plays Senegal in Alexandria. In Saturday s quarterfinals, Cameroon takes on Ivory Coast in Cairo, while Nigeria plays Tunisia in Port Said.
Egypt thrashed Libya 3-0 and held Morocco to a 0-0 draw before beating Group A favorite Ivory Coast 3-1 to reach the last eight.
But they only played a half-strength Ivory Coast, and are likely to play without popular Tottenham striker Mido against Congo due to a groin injury.
Forward Amr Zaki is also doubtful, leaving team leadership to 39-year-old Hossam Hassan, who put in a patchy performance against the Ivorians.
He will partner with Emad Moteab, who scored twice against the Elephants.
Congo coach Claude Leroy has already produced tournament surprises, edging out World Cup qualifiers Togo and Angola before folding against Cameroon.
He will field a team without Gladys Bokese, who was sent off against Cameroon, placing additional pressure on captain Lomana LuaLua of Portsmouth.
The pressure will really be on them because if we get an early goal the crowd will be on their backs, LuaLua said. Leroy is also grappling with a lingering pay dispute that prompted Simbas players to repeatedly threaten to walk out. And the Frenchman has complained of his players being swarmed by soccer agents, leaving him working overtime to improve his players attitudes.
Bokese s expulsion was preceded by a red card shown to midfielder Tresor Mputu, sent off against Angola after a wild foul.
Football is a school of humility and behavior. I am not proud of our second red card in two games, Leroy said. I am not happy with the way some of my players arebehaving … I feel a bit ashamed.
Guinea came to the African Cup as a low-ranked outsider. But the team could be forgiven for raising its sights a little, after inflicting three punishing defeats against Zambia, South Africa and defending champion Tunisia – scoring seven goals and conceding one.
Captain Bobo Balde said he had not expected to win Group C and hopes opponents continue to underestimate the west African nation.
We have good players, who play in France, Turkey and England … (but) we say we are the underdog because people don t know us and it s good to keep it that way, the Celtic defender said. We ve started to speak about (winning the cup) and that would be great but we have to take it game-by-game.
Victory against Tunisia was like a bullet for us … It gave us confidence and I hope it will bring victory in the quarterfinals.
Senegal, which reached the quarterfinals at the 2002 World Cup, scraped through to the last eight after beating Zimbabwe 2-0. They lost Group D matches to Ghana and Nigeria.
Senegal coach Abdoulaye Sarr has appeared frustrated by the Teranga Lions erratic form and has publicly criticized his players for lacking discipline.
He lashed at Senegal goalkeeper Tony Sylva after Tuesday s 2-1 defeat by Nigeria.
We dominated 80 minutes of the match and then a schoolboy goalkeeping error drained the confidence of the whole team, said Sarr, who has enviable strike options.
He is expected to rely on the goal-scoring abilities of Bolton s El Hadji Diouf and Wigan s Henri Camara. Souleymane Camara is also in form. The Nice forward scored against Nigeria, firing in a goal on a rebound after Camara s shot was blocked by Super Eagles’ goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama. AP