3 August 2012

Africa: Technical Masterclass in Store As Japan, Egypt Clash

Fans can look forward to a technical masterclass as Japan and Egypt go head to head for a place in the semi-finals of the Men's Olympic Football Tournament London 2012 in Manchester this Saturday. Both sides have won plenty of admirers for their performances so far in the competition, with the Asians excelling as a collective and the Africans by way of some breathtaking individual talent.

After beating Spain on their way to top spot in Group D with seven points, Japan have earned their billing as favourites ahead of the tie. However, the Pharaohs will be approaching the game with similar confidence after coming through Group C in second behind title favourites Brazil, thanks largely to a 3-1 win over Belarus in their final first-round match. Not only was the victory the team's first at London 2012, it was also their first against a European nation at an Olympic Football Tournament since they overcame Portugal 2-1 in 1928.

Japan's defence will have been warned about Egyptian attacker Mohamed Salah, the only player along with Senegal's Moussa Konate to have scored in every match at the tournament so far. The last player to achieve the same feat was Poland's Andrzej Juskowiak at the 1992 Games in Barcelona. Salah faces a daunting task against Japan, however. Along with Mexico, Takashi Sekizuka's side were the only team not to concede in the group stage.

Never before have Japan and Egypt met at a Men's Olympic Football Tournament. There has only ever been one clash in FIFA competition in the past too - when the Asians triumphed 1-0 in the group stages of the FIFA U-20 World Cup in 2003. Japan's Yuhei Tokunaga and Egypt's Ahmed Fathi and Emad Meteab all took part in that match and could be involved again in Manchester on Saturday.

"I wasn't playing, but we lost against Egypt quite recently. We don't like the fact that they beat us and we've been waiting to get our own back. Now we've got the chance to do so," Suchi Gonda,Japan goalkeeper.

"The win against Belarus kick-started our tournament and I think we can win it. We came here to win a medal. People haven't seen what this team is capable of yet, the best is yet to come," Hossam Hassan, Egypt midfielder.

Japan - Egypt, Old Trafford, Manchester, Saturday, 4 August, 12.00 (local time)

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