The return of the Pharaohs
If you had doubts that Egypt was on a mission to reclaim its supremacy, the team’s win of the Under-20 African Championship is enough confirmation that the North African side is back to its glory days.
Egypt became the first country to win three consecutive Africa Cup of Nations trophies (2006, 2008, 2010). They also hold the record of winning it the most times. However, their fall from grace is what made some question their ability to rise and earn that spot again.
It has been a mystery how a nation that has almost always achieved in the continent has always taken a back seat when it comes to representing Africa at the World Cup. In 2010 they failed to qualify but in this case it was a scenario of so close yet so far. They fell short to their rivals Algeria in Khartoum, in what ended as a diplomatic incident following riots in Khartoum and Cairo.
Then, there was the 2012 Afcon failure that summed up their regression. There were many factors, such as ageing of key players, political instability, power shifts and a slow start to their qualifying campaign, which saw them miss out on the ticket to Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.
That is the past. Their present indicates that the sport is blossoming. Al Ahly won the Caf Champions League without kicking a ball for close to a year after suspension of the local league. It sounds absurd but it was made possible by an incredible Egyptian side.
This was an early indication of what was to come. They beat Zimbawe 2-1 to complete their perfect start to their World Cup campaign, with nine points in three matches as they top Group A.
As much as they have been sidelined for years now when it comes to continental success, they are slowly regaining their form and have unleashed their prowess in the mentioned competitions.
It is important to note the dominance the Pharaohs had a decade ago. It remains appalling how many of their star players chose to play in Egypt and turned down offers to play in Europe.
It could be the cohesion that is now showing and enabling them to contest for titles. As for the national team, the introduction of Coach Bob Bradley has played a role. He didn’t get the best of starts but, like they say, it is how you finish that matters. With many friendly matches organised for his side, he’s been able to know his weaknesses and reaffirm their strengths.
So, this begs the question, will Egypt qualify for the World Cup for the third time in their football history?
They have made huge strides since 2010. It took failure, shame, broken hearts, revolution and a disaster for the Pharaohs to claim their place at the pinnacle. As it stands, they have just started. The North African side has a lot in store for us.