Monday, September 20, 2021

Zamalek is tough, but beatable, Amuneke tells Rangers

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Enugu Rangers’ Godwin Aguda (left) rises above Rivers United’s Idris Aloma (right) to nod the ball during a recent encounter between Nigeria’s two remaining continental campaigners in Enugu. Rangers will be away to Zamalek of Egypt in the CAF Champions League, while Rivers United will entertain Al Marreikh of Sudan…this weekend.

• Flying Antelopes off to Egypt for CAF Champions League tie

For three years, former Super Eagles’ winger, Emmanuel Amuneke was worshipped in Egypt, while featuring for Zamalek FC, a club he led to beat Ghana’s Asante Kotoko in 1993 CAF Champions League, known then as the Champions Cup.

Amuneke, who is currently the head coach of Nigeria’s U-20 team, Flying Eagles, made 71 appearances for Zamalek, scoring 21 goals. He knows the Egyptian club very well, including their antics on and off the field of play.

On Sunday, one of Nigeria’s flag bearers in this year’s CAF Champions League, Rangers of Enugu, will take on the north African side in a second round, first leg encounter, and Amuneke says the Flying Antelopes have a mountain to climb at the Al Salam Stadium in Cairo.

Rangers, who eliminated Algerian debutants, JS Saoura, on the away goal rule in the earlier round, need to move past Zamalek to reach the lucrative group stage of the CAF Champions League.

To Amuneke, beating the experienced Egyptian campaigners (Zamalek) requires a lot from both players and handlers of Rangers. “It is a very big test for Rangers,” Amuneke told from his base in Spain. “Zamalek is one of the best teams on the continent and they have won the trophy five times. Rangers have to be at their optimal best to get something against the Egyptians. Anything short of that won’t see them across the line.”

According to Amuneke, Zamalek, like some other north African teams are well drilled tactically. “They know how to play these type of games. They are the masters of game-management and Rangers have to match them or even outdo them.

“North African sides are very intelligent and crafty. They know when to push and score and when to defend. When they score, they protect the goal or even push to score more but they always find a way to make the game work for them.

“You can see that they have won a lot of trophies on the continent and they also promote young players through to the senior team. I saw a lot of good players play for the national team during my time as all the players were from Egyptian clubs, unlike now that Egyptian players have started venturing abroad to Europe,” Amuneke stated.

The former Julius Berger winger advised Rangers to ignore the pressure from the fans and concentrate on doing the business on the field: “We have to be truthful to ourselves. I’m not sure Rangers will face any bigger test than Zamalek, even if they get to the group stage.

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