CAIRO (FIBA AfroBasket 2017) - As Egypt prepare to host the FIBA AfroBasket 2017 Zone 5 Qualifiers next month in Cairo, there is only one goal in the back of coach Juan Orenga's mind.
"The main objective is to qualify for the AfroBasket and try to go up against teams like Senegal, Nigeria and Angola who have dominated the game in Africa. It’s a challenge that we’ll like to face." - Orenga
While the North Africans have emerged as favourites, Orenga insists they cannot rest on their laurels, therefore he selected some of the best home-based players, including seven who featured at FIBA AfroBasket 2015 for a training camp, which began early this week in Cairo.
Egypt 19-player preliminary roster for FIBA AfroBasket Zone 5 Qualifiers
The two teams that finish top of the Zone 5 Qualifiers will secure their places in the showpiece to be played in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo.
"The main objective is to qualify for the AfroBasket and try to go up against teams like Senegal, Nigeria and Angola who have dominated the game in Africa. It's a challenge that we'll like to face," Orenga noted.
Until the qualifiers begin, Egypt will be holding a training camp in Dubai where they are expected to play five preparation games. A month ago, the Pharaohs won the Arab Championship 2017 in Cairo after beating Morocco in the final.
What comes next, the play caller feels, is a different story.
Asked to describe the team's mindset during the practice sessions, he said that "it's not difficult to keep my players motivated because they know that we must qualify for the AfroBasket in order to compete in the Qualifiers for the World Cup 2019."
Back in 2014, Egypt dominated the FIBA Africa Zone 5 Qualifiers finishing with four wins in as many games in Kampala, Uganda.
The North Africans haven't faced any Zone 5 team since.
"Right now, I don't know much about our opponents [from Zone 5] but I am scouting them, and watching films from the 2015 Qualifiers," Orenga explained.