Egypt under pressure after World Cup failure

2010-01-07 11:06

Angola 2010 will be a true test of character for six-time African

champions Egypt, who are still smarting from their failure to qualify for the

World Cup.

The Pharaohs were expected to qualify for the World Cup in South

Africa for the first time since their last appearance in 1990, but were upstaged

by bitter regional rivals Algeria in a play-off after both teams were tied on

the same 13 points and had also scored the same goals as well as let in the same

number of goals after six rounds of matches.

“Losing out narrowly on the World Cup ticket to Algeria was really

very painful and we have resolved to put that behind us to focus on retaining

our Nations Cup title in Angola,” said Egypt coach, Hassan Shehata, who led them

to victory at the 2006 and 2008 Nations Cups.

“My players were dispirited as a result of the shock but I have

been talking to them and psyching them up for the tough task in Angola.”

One thing going for the defending champions is that there has been

continuity in the team. Coach Shehata has been in charge since 2004, something

of a rarity in African football, and the bulk of the team still play their

football in Egypt.

However, critics also say that this is an ageing team and Angola

2010 could well be a swansong for experienced campaigners like skipper Ahmed

Hassan, goalkeeper Essam El-Hadary, Mohamed Aboutrika and Wael Gomaa.

Skipper Hassan is the team’s most capped player, equalling

legendary Hossam Hassan’s record cap of 169.

The Pharaohs could also do with scoring more goals as they line up

several top strikers like Amr Zaki, Ahmed Hossam ’Mido and Mohamed Zidan.

The Nations Cup is a favourite hunting ground for Egypt, meaning

they should progress past a group that includes Nigeria and Mozambique and from

there on, anything is possible.

“I can say it’s an easy group. I think we will reach the knockout

stage along with Nigeria. Of course Egypt are better than Benin and Mozambique

while Nigeria are not at their best, but they are likely to accompany us to the

next round,” predicted a top official of the Egypt Football Association, Hazem

Al-Hawari.


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