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El-Hadary absence boosts Uganda ahead of Egypt tie

The absence of veteran Egypt goalkeeper Essam El-Hadary should motivate Uganda when they face the Pharaohs in a 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifier at Alexandria's Borg El-Arab Stadium on Tuesday night.

The Cranes are on a high following their 1-0 win over the group favourites last week, but they know the Egyptians will be desperate for the three points -- and with a partisan home crowd behind them.

The Egyptian FA announced that the 44-year-old keeper, who sustained the injury after colliding with defender Ahmed Hegazi on Thursday, is ruled out. Scans reportedly show that the four-time African champion has damaged his knee ligaments.

Mohamed Awad was called up to replace El-Hadary to join Ahmed El-Shennawi and Sherif Ekrami.

However, Cranes skipper Denis Onyango told KweséESPN that while he respects El-Hadary, he thinks his absence will not change much: "It will be more of team work for both teams and not just individual players. So I don't think El-Hadary's absence is a big deal."

Emmanuel Arnold Okwi netted the lone goal on Thursday to place Uganda top of Group E with seven points, one ahead of Egypt. The hosts were dominant and created more scoring opportunities, while the Egyptians failed to adapt to what they called a "poor" pitch.

Uganda's interim head coach Moses Basena made it clear that this is as good a chance as any for Uganda to qualify for the World Cup.

"We are preparing seriously with focus on this game we consider a game of our lives. We are going for a real cup final on Tuesday and all the players are aware of the huge mission," Basena added.

It would be a big boost for the Cranes to go four points clear before they host the Black Stars of Ghana in October and travel to face Congo-Brazzaville in November.

However, Egypt's head coach Hector Cuper says the qualifiers are not over yet: "In Uganda we tried more than one formation and fielded many attackers, but we still could not get a better result. But at home we are going all out to get a win and some changes could be made on the formations."

Egypt, who are hoping to make their first World Cup appearance since 1990, are in a must-win situation to regain top spot in the group. Cuper has called on the home fans to come in big numbers and boost the team.

Following the order by Egypt's sports minister Khaled Abdel-Aziz in June that only 70 000 Egyptian fans will be allowed to watch the game, the FA has requested special permission to have all 86 000 seats occupied to give the hosts the best possible chance of success.

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