Javier Aguirre believes that Egypt can compete with the very best despite the national team’s dismal performance at the World Cup.
On Thursday the Mexican was announced as Hector Cuper’s successor as boss of the Pharaohs — the Argentine axed after he led Egypt to three defeats in Russia, leaving them bottom of Group A, one of the weakest groups in the tournament.
Aguirre officially started his duties on Friday as he attended his first Egyptian Premier League match in the opening round of fixtures of the new season; a 1-1 draw between Al-Ahly and Ismaili.
The former coach of Mexico, Japan and Atletico Madrid was impressed with what he saw and declared that the game in the country is in a healthy state.
“Egyptian football is one of the best, if not the best, in Africa,” Aguirre said. “The Egyptian team is capable of competing against any team.”
Egyptian football fans are still coming to terms with the poor showing at the World Cup. The Pharaohs went into the tournament on a high and fancied to make it through to the knockout stages for the first time in their history. But the media circus over Mohamed Salah’s fitness and losses to Uruguay, Russia and Saudi Arabia condemned them to bottom place in Group A and left many thoughts as to what might have been.
It was no surprise that Cuper, appointed to take over Uzbekistan on the same day his successor was confirmed in Cairo, did not have his contract extended.
“Egypt did not show what they are capable of at the World Cup but they did not have any luck either,” said Aguirre who will receive a bonus of $500,000 if he leads Egypt to the 2022 World Cup and will also be rewarded in the event off an African Cup of Nations title next year.
With the domestic season kicking off, the new man is looking forward to seeing plenty of local talent in action over the coming weeks.
“We have a very good base founded by Hector Cuper and we will definitely choose from that base,” Aguirre said. “Now in front of me is the opportunity to see many of my players. I will also be watching many videos as I look to build my squad and this has to start now, especially as we have a game next month.”
On Sept. 7, Aguirre, who will be given an Egyptian assistant next week, gets his first taste of action with a vital African Cup of Nations qualifier against Niger. After a loss to Tunisia in the opening qualifier in June last year, there is pressure on Aguirre to start with a win.
Not only that but the new boss has been told that he will not get the one thing that most coaches dream of and deem necessary to achieve success on the international stage — more time with the players. Amer Hussein, the head of the competitions committee at the Egyptian Football Association (EFA) said last week that there will be little room in the schedule of the Egyptian Premier League for friendlies or team gatherings over the next few months.
“Aguirre may request more with the squad but it is unlikely to happen,” an official at the EFA told Arab News. “The games are coming very quickly at home. He can watch many games but he will not get much time to spend with the players.”
While Cuper’s tenure may have ended on a sour note, the experienced Argentine did deliver success during his time.
“Overall Cuper was a successful coach and took Egypt to the final of the 2017 African Nations Cup and then a first World Cup for 28 years,” said the official.
While there is a demand for something similar from the new man, there are also expectations that Aguirre will bring a different style to team from his predecessor. Frustration among fans in Russia with Cuper’s defensive tactics reached a boiling point after the three defeats. Aguire has already indicated that he will not follow Cuper’s defense-first philosophy.
“I respect the way he played but my way of playing is completely different,” Aguirre said.
“There will be a total change in the way of thinking and a strong pressing of the opposition when the ball is lost.
“I have great dreams and ambitions for Egypt.”