We are title favorites, says Egypt coach ahead of Africa Cup opener

Egypt's Mohamed Salah during the warm up. (Reuters)
Updated 21 June 2019
0

We are title favorites, says Egypt coach ahead of Africa Cup opener

  • Egypt are playing at home, can count on passionate support

CAIRO: Africa Cup of Nations hosts Egypt are confident of defeating Zimbabwe Friday in the opening match of a tournament expanded to 24 teams and staged in mid-year for the first time.

Egypt lie 51 places higher on the world rankings ahead of the Group A clash, top the title betting at 5/1 with Zimbabwe 150/1, and have won three of the four previous Cup of Nations they hosted.

“We are the favorites to win the 2019 Africa Cup,” said 60-year-old coach Javier Aguirre, the first Mexican to guide a nation that has won the competition a record seven times.

“Egypt are playing at home, can count on passionate support and have Mohamed Salah, the best footballer in Africa.”

Salah has returned home after another stellar season with Liverpool, which he completed by scoring the first goal in a 2-0 Champions League final triumph over Tottenham Hotspur.

His 22 English Premier League goals last season gave him a share of the Golden Boot title with two fellow Africans, Senegalese Sadio Mane and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang of Gabon.

Aguirre says fears that his talisman may be jaded after a long season of Premier League and Champions League football are unfounded.

“Mohamed took a holiday after the Champions League final, did not play in our first warm-up match and only came on after half-time in the second,” he countered.

Egypt beat fellow qualifiers Tanzania and Guinea and what pleased Aguirre most was not the results, but the large number of scoring chances the Pharaohs created.

“We had about 20 chances to score against the Tanzanians and almost as many against the Guineans. That is very encouraging.”

Aguirre also dismissed the view that Egypt rely too heavily on Salah, saying: “We have selected 23 footballers who are totally committed to the cause of winning the Cup of Nations.

“It is impossible for one footballer to win a Cup of Nations on his own. Mohamed will receive tremendous support from his teammates.

“All the players are mentally and physically ready and we look forward to beginning our campaign with a victory over Zimbabwe.”

The countries have met only once in a Cup of Nations with Egypt winning 2-1 in Tunisia 15 years ago and both teams were eliminated after the first round.

Aguirre expects the Zimbabwe Warriors to be “a well organized team who will seek to score mainly through counterattacks and set pieces.

“We have studied videos of them and identified strengths and weaknesses. I do not believe they will take us by surprise.”

Zimbabwe coach and former captain Sunday Chidzambwa was keeping his thoughts to himself ahead of the tournament opener.

But captain and forward Knowledge Musona, who plays in Belgium, stressed that they must not become obsessed by Salah, despite the huge threat he poses.

“We must not just stop Salah, we must stop all the Egyptians. If we concentrate only on one, others will destroy us,” he warned.

“My boys must be prepared to contest every loose ball, defend and attack in numbers, and take our scoring chances. “Against Egypt in Cairo we are unlikely to get many scoring chances, so clinical finishing is essential.”

“We are not here to talk — we are here to play football. We are in Egypt to achieve success and make every Zimbabwean proud of us.

“While I would love to add to the three goals I scored in the qualifying competition, it does not matter who scores, as long as they are Zimbabwean.”

The Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda are the other teams in Group A and they meet Saturday at the same venue as the opening match.

Group winners and runners-up qualify for the knockout second round along with the best four of the six third-place finishers.


Russian boxer Maxim Dadashev dies after fight against Subriel Matias

Updated 23 July 2019
0

Russian boxer Maxim Dadashev dies after fight against Subriel Matias

  • Doctors operated to relieve pressure from swelling on his brain
  • Dadashev, known as “Mad Max,” was unable to walk to the dressing room and was immediately hospitalized

MOSCOW: Russian boxer Maxim Dadashev has died from brain injuries sustained in a fight in Maryland, the Russian boxing federation announced on Tuesday.
“Maxim Dadashev has died in the United States following injuries sustained during his fight with Subriel Matias,” the federation said in a statement.
The 28-year-old underwent emergency brain surgery in Washington after his super-lightweight bout with Puerto Rican Matias on Friday was stopped after the 11th round by his cornerman James “Buddy” McGirt.
Dadashev, known as “Mad Max,” was unable to walk to the dressing room and was immediately hospitalized.
Doctors operated to relieve pressure from swelling on his brain.
McGirt, who said after the fight he “couldn’t convince” his fighter to stop but opted to throw in the towel when he saw him “getting hit with more and more clean shots as the fight went on,” told ESPN on Tuesday he was wracking his brain wondering if he could have done things differently.
“It just makes you realize what type of sport we’re in, man,” McGirt told ESPN — which streamed the fight on its ESPN+ platform.
“He did everything right in training, no problems, no nothing. My mind is like really running crazy, right now. Like what could I have done differently? But at the end of the day, everything was fine (in training).
“He seemed OK, he was ready, but it’s the sport that we’re in. It just takes one punch, man.”
Russian boxing chief Umar Kremlev told Russian media that Dadashev’s body would be repatriated home and that his family would receive financial aid.
Dadashev’s widow, Elizaveta Apushkina, also issued a statement, confirming the fighter’s death “with great sadness.”
She said: “He was a very kind person who fought until the very end. Our son will continue be raised to be a great man like his father,” she said of the St. Petersburg-born fighter who trained in Oxnard, California.
Dadashev took an unbeaten 13-0 record into the 140-pound non-title fight.
Dadashev, whose manager Egis Klimas also handles Vasiliy Lomachenko and Sergey Kovalev, turned pro in April of 2016 and relocated to Southern California to pursue his ring ambitions, eventually signing with promoters Top Rank.
Top Rank chairman Bob Arum issued a statement recalling Dadashev as “a terrific young man.”
ESPN, which streamed the bout on ESPN+, also issued a statement.
“Our heartfelt thoughts are with Dadashev’s family, friends, trainers and the team at Top Rank,” the statement said.
Dadashev was rated in the top five by two world sanctioning organizations going into Friday’s fight in suburban Washington DC, an elimination bout for the right to become mandatory challenger for Josh Taylor’s IBF title.
Matias dominated, and after the 11th round McGirt could be heard telling Dadashev “I’m going to stop it, Max,” even as Dadashev shook his head.
McGirt, himself a former two-weight world champion, then told the referee: “That’s it.”