Ahmed Hassan, the captain of seven-time African champions Egypt, insists the Pharaohs will not underestimate the challenge of Mozambique when they kick-off their 2014 FIFA World Cup™ qualifying campaign tomorrow.
Having failed to qualify for the CAF African Nations Cup earlier this year, the pressure is on Egypt to deliver and secure top spot in Group G. The ten group winners then play-off in five head-to-head ties to determine the quintet of qualifiers to advance to Brazil in two years' time.
With domestic football in Egypt currently in crisis due to repeated acts of hooliganism - the situation culminating in the death of at least 74 people in violent clashes between supporters of al-Masry and al-Ahly in Port Said in February - there is even greater emphasis on the national team.
Hassan has warned, however, that Mozambique will be tricky. He told www.cafonline.com: "It's going to be a tough game. First games are always difficult especially in these qualifications. The current situation makes it even more difficult. We will play behind closed doors and also we lack competitive football because football activities are halted in Egypt. But we're determined to win and I hope we surpass all these hurdles and achieve victory."
Guinea and Zimbabwe, the other two teams in the pool, meet on Sunday.
Hassan added: "It's a tough group because the games in Africa have a different approach. We remember that in 2012 Africa Nations Cup qualification we lost to Niger and Sierra Leone despite the fact they were unranked teams. We should not underestimate any team."
Continental heavyweights Nigeria open their Group F campaign at home to Namibia on Sunday with coach Stephen Keshi noticing a new attitude amongst his squad.
"They are all fighting to be in the team," he said. "Sometimes they overdo it and I always calm them down to avoid injuries and also to make them play their normal game and not to impress anybody because when they play to impress in training something different happens in a match situation. But I like what is happening. Players must be hungry for the national team.
"Building a team takes time. That's why I can't invite everybody at the same time. Any person who lacks the commitment and who doesn't show hunger for the national team will be left out even if people see him as a superstar. The team we will field against Namibia is shaping up and we'll get it right before Sunday."
Other fancied sides in action this weekend include Ghana, who meet Lesotho tomorrow, Cote d'Ivoire, who take on Tanzania on Saturday, Cameroon, who face Congo DR, South Africa, who host Ethiopia, and African champions Zambia, who visit Sudan.