Already, there is a huge expectation on this game by fans of African Football as these giants, who have been drowsy lately, clash in what is easily the biggest game of the 2017 AFCON qualifying campaign.
Hector Cuper’s job simply depends on this match as the Egyptian FA has threatened to fire him if he fails to beat Nigeria in the double-header clash so all we can wish him is a speedy journey on his coaching journey that has taken him to 14 coaching posts in 23 years.
The Argentine manager has a reputation of losing in major finals like he experienced with Mallorca, Aris Thessaloniki and Valencia respectively but he is a seasoned campaigner with a reputation of getting the best out of his players courtesy of his knack for motivating his players to achieve the almost impossible.
At Valencia, he probably had the best period in his managerial career where he reached the Champions League final twice in consecutive seasons losing to Real Madrid (2000) and Bayern Munich (2001).
Hector Cuper molded the likes of Gaizka Mendieta, John Carew, Rubén Baraja, Roberto Ayala, Vicente Rodríguez, Fábio Aurélio, Baraja, Aimar, Vicente, Gerrard and Ayala into some of Europe’s finest footballers and when he was appointed by the Egyptian Federation as the manager of the Pharaohs on March 2, 2015, the same objectives were outlined.
Luckily for Cuper, he has in his Arsenal, Mohammed Salah, who currently plies his trade with Italian side AS Roma. The left-footed winger is a machine of speed and can wreck any team on his day.
In recent friendlies against Burkina Faso and Jordan, Cuper has played with the 4-4-2 formation and may apply same against the Super Eagles of Nigeria. He likes his team to press the opposition and deny them space at every opportunity.
This means that Arsenal ace Mohamed Elneny will play a huge role against the Eagles as the midfield anchor. He will lead the charge from the middle to try and close the gap on the Eagles and hopefully deny them the chance to build the game from the back.
The former Basel man also has a good shot from distance like we saw from his goal against Barcelona in the Champions League where he got his first goal for the Gunners with a sweet shot from the edge of the box. His strength will be massive as he covers a lot of distance during games which is an attribute that Hector Cuper loves.
Cuper may set his team up to press the Eagles from the back so they may result to just long balls which the Pharaohs can easily deal with but the biggest threat of the Argentine’s team will be playing their quick one touch football on counter-attacks.
This will allow Salah to express himself a lot as he is blessed with frightening pace, an eye for a pass and can finish also. However, their biggest goal threat will come from Zamalek’s Basem Morsi who scored an hat-trick against Chad in their last qualifier.
If the 4-4-2 fails to tame the Eagles, Cuper may switch to his preferred 3-5-2 formation and try to close the midfield with more men joining the offensive.
The Nigerian team will be playing its first competitive game under care-taker manager Samson Siasia and Hector Cuper who is almost one year into the Egyptian job may fancy his chances of earning the six points at stake that would move him closer to having a more permanent abode in Cairo.