The Pharaohs will seek to overcome their World Cup heartbreak with a third successive continental title.
AFCON Appearances: Twenty-One
AFCON Titles: Six
Even though they have won this title more times than anyone else and took the last two editions, this tournament happens to come at a particularly sensitive time for an Egyptian team that is still reeling from their World Cup exit at the hands of bitter rivals Algeria.
Given their historic dominance on the continental scene and their successful campaign in Ghana 2008 where they played fantastic team football that was a joy to watch for neutral viewers, it had been expected that they wouldn’t have too much trouble making it to South Africa.
However, the Pharaohs were unable to extend their run of impressive results into World Cup qualifying and have thus continued to baffle their supporters who wanted nothing more than to see their country on the big stage.
At Angola 2010, Egypt are drawn in group C alongside Nigeria, Benin, and Mozambique.
Road To Qualification
The Egyptians got off to a bad start in qualifying by conceding an unexpected 1-1 home draw against Zambia at the Cairo International Stadium that would haunt them for the rest of their matches. They then had to travel to Blida to partake in an Arab derby and came out on the short end of things again but this time it stung more because it was a 3-1 loss to a team they absolutely hate to lose to.
Two wins against Rwanda later and the Egyptians had qualified for the African Cup of Nations but still needed a victory away to Zambia to stay in touching distance with Algeria who they would host on the final day of qualifying. Hassan Shehata’s men struggled mightily in Chililabombwe but got the goal they need off a beautiful Hosny Abd Rabo effort.
The last match against the Fennecs produced fireworks both off and on the pitch with both teams and countries getting into a media war that escalated to the point where diplomatic tensions were felt on each side. On the field Egypt forced a playoff as nothing could separate both sides after six games. The match in Omdurman would prove to be their undoing though as their World Cup jinx continued.
Although he just missed out on his chance of being the first coach to take Egypt to a World Cup in two decades, Hassan Shehata’s record while leading speaks for itself. Since taking over the team in 2004, he has, two African Cup of Nations trophies, 48 wins, 14 draws, and only 14 losses. In fact, besides the disappointment of this past month, the trainer has only known success with the Pharaohs.
The tactician was awarded the post in 2004 after showing his coaching capacities at many lower division clubs in Egypt where he would constantly help the various sides he was employed by achieve promotion. He is a strict disciplinarian who is not afraid to stand up to his stars who misbehave as his rows with Mido and Zidan have shown in the past.
Mohamed Zidan (Dortmund)
With Mohamed Aboutrika officially ruled out of the tournament due to a broken bone in his foot, more will be expected of Zidan who showed in the 2008 African Cup of Nations as well as at the recent Confederations Cup that he is one of the most important elements at Shehata's disposal. Few will forget his outstanding start to the 2008 tournament in Ghana where he scored a brace against Cameroon and inspired his team to a 4-2 win. He then tamed the Indomitable Lions once more in the final as it was his relentless pressure that dispossessed Rigobert Song and created the chance for Aboutrika to win the continental title.
Ahmed Al Muhammadi (ENNPI)
At 22, the right winger is one of the second youngest player on a side that will probably have to be rejuvenated after this tournament. The ENNPI player’s quickness and crossing ability have made him the target of a number of premiership clubs but he’s yet to make a move as team’s have been unable to come to an agreement for him. A good showing in Angola might change that.
Objective: As defending champions there is no doubt their objective is to win the title and confirm their dominance on in these tournaments. In truth though, even though a title win would be impressive it probably won’t fully wash away the pain of yet again failing in their quest for a World Cup qualification.
Prediction: Even if their morale has taken a hit, a team as experienced as this should make it out of a group that includes Nigeria, Benin, and Mozambique. Nevertheless, they will have to show that they have heeded the lessons of not underestimating teams that are supposedly rated lower than them.
A semi final berth is the furthest I can see them going but a more realistic appraisal sees them possibly going out as early as the quarters to a team from group D which includes Gabon, Cameroon, Tunisia, and Zambia.
Did You Know?
Egypt is tied for most appearances in a final match (7) with the Ghana but have two more titles than the Blackstars.
Rami Ayari, Goal.com