After earning a solid point in their respective opening matches against Brazil and Austria, Egypt and Panama square off in search of an all-important first victory that would propel them into an advantageous position in Group E. The match, to be played in Barranquilla, could go a long way to deciding which teams will qualify from the section.
The Africans come into this match off the back of a highly creditable and well-deserved 1-1 draw with Brazil, an encounter the Egyptians could possibly have won, had it not been for the profligacy exhibited by their misfiring forwards. The result versus A Seleçãozinha will have nevertheless provided a major morale boost to the Pharaohs, who are keen to repeat the performance their team put in the last time the FIFA U-20 World Cup was held on South American soil: third place at Argentina 2001. Egypt will have Ahmed Elshenawi available again, after the goalkeeper was stretchered off in the final minutes of the opening game.
Panama, meanwhile, whose only previous meeting with an African team at the competition – against Burkina Faso in 2003 – ended in defeat, will also be heartened by their 0-0 stalemate with Austria, a result which proved that the Central Americans can hold their own at the event. Coach Alfredo Poyatos has stated that he is likely to offer Gabriel Avila his first start in the tournament, although he did not reveal who would drop to the bench to accommodate the forward.
18 – The birthday that Egypt midfielder Saleh Gomaa will be celebrating on the day of the match. Will it spur him on to provide his team-mates with an additional reason to celebrate?
Luis Mejia, Panama goalkeeper: “Egypt won’t give us anything; they already demonstrated their strengths against Brazil. We’ll need to prepare in the best possible manner, and aim to repeat the good things we showed in the Austria game, as well as cut out the bad things. It’s all or nothing.”
El Sayed Diaa, Egypt coach:.“The Brazil match is in the past, and we now need to focus on Panama. I think this game will be even harder, because no team’s going to underestimate us from this point on.”