Captain Hassan insists Egypt can qualify for World Cup

JOHANNESBURG: Captain Ahmed Hassan insists struggling Egypt can reach the 2010 World Cup in South Africa ahead of a crucial qualifier against Rwanda in Cairo Sunday.

Winners of the last two African Nations Cup tournaments, the North Africans lie bottom of Group C with just one point after a home draw against Zambia and away loss to Algeria.

Arch-rivals Algeria top the final qualifying round table with seven points followed by Zambia with four and while Rwanda have only one, they boast a superior goal difference to the Egyptians.

Only victory at Cairo Stadium will keep the 'Pharaohs' in contention for first place and a World Cup ticket and midfielder Hassan from Cairo club Al-Ahly believes a weary, unpredictable national team can secure three points.

"Even if we have 50 percent hope we must hold on to it. We still have four games left and if we win them all we will be at the World Cup," Hassan told local reporters.

"We suffered a heavy defeat in Algeria last month and the players know they did not play well. No individual is to blame for that loss. We were all responsible."

After a 3-1 reverse in Algeria, Egypt showed what they are capable of at the Confederations Cup in South Africa last month by losing to eventual winners Brazil in stoppage time and defeating world champions Italy.

But with a semi-finals place at the 2010 World Cup dress rehearsal beckoning, the 'Pharaohs' imploded in a 3-0 loss to the United States, who went on to finish runners-up behind the Brazilians.

Officials played the humiliating Rustenburg defeat on tiredness, injuries and false South African media reports that some players had been robbed by prostitutes at a Johannesburg hotel after stunning Italy.

After being held goalless at home by Algeria and suffering a solitary-goal loss in Zambia, a Rwandan team coached by Croat Branko Tucak has also arrived at the last chance saloon.

Tucak boasted before the qualifiers began last March that the tiny central African nation could top the table and reach the World Cup finals for the first time.

Those expectations have been downgraded to a top-three finish and a place at the African Nations Cup in Angola six months before the first World Cup to be staged in Africa kicks off.

The winners of the five qualifying groups advance to the World Cup where they will be joined by hosts South Africa while the top three in each pool compete for the Nations Cup beside Angola.