Eighth-title chasing Egypt have been dealt a heavy blow ahead of their opening match with Nigeria at the Africa Cup of Nations.
According to Ahram, a popular Egyptian outlet, the team goalkeeper, Mohamed Abo Gabal and the goalkeepers’ trainer, Essam El Hadary have both tested positive for COVID-19.
That possibly explains the delay of the team departure to Cameroon on Friday and will now fly to Garoua this Saturday, the eve of the opening ceremony of the Africa Cup of Nations.
In the report which was reportedly announced by the Egyptian FA, “PCR tests have showed that Abo Gabal and Essam El-Hadary have tested positive for COVID-19 and they will miss the trip to Cameroon to take part in the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations.”
Egypt’s national team coach Carlos Queiroz canceled Thursday’s training session with the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) national team and postponed the Pharaohs’ flight to Cameroon until Saturday.
The Pharaohs underwent PCR tests on Thursday morning in preparation for the flight to Cameroon, which has been moved to Saturday morning to give the players enough time to rest before traveling.
The seven-time African champions will be playing in Group D alongside Nigeria, Sudan and Guinea Bissau, and will begin their AFCON 2021 campaign with a clash against the Nigerian Super Eagles on 11 January.
Meanwhile, coach Queiroz hoped for a quick recovery of the infected players so that they could return to the team.
“Unprecedented times. The more the situation becomes difficult, the more we stay together & strong. Better we stand together & focus on what we need to do to meet the challenges. Dear Friends & Team Mates, we all pray for your health, wishing fast recovery and return to our Team.” Queiroz tweeted early on Friday.
The EFA called the Olympic team’s goalkeeping coach Tarek Soliman to join the Pharaohs’ crew as a replacement for El-Hadary.
Queiroz also decided not to name another goalie to replace Abo Gabal as he will instead make use of the three previously named goalkeepers, according to a statement by the EFA.
The Pharaohs’ final squad witnessed a recall of four goalkeepers including Ahly’s and Egypt first choice Mohamed El-Shennawy, Farco’s Mohamed Sobhy, Enppi’s Mahmoud Gad and Zamalek’s Mohamed Abo Gabal.
There was speculation that the tournament, which was delayed due to coronavirus, might be delayed again because of the spread of the Omicron variant but the Confederation of African Football (CAF) eventually decided to hold it as scheduled.