Egyptian team seeking to relive African glories

The Egyptian team are striving to achieve high goals, without ignoring the fact that competition for the title will be tough at the 2009 Confederations Cup current under way. Besides the six continental champions, the Pharoahs have joined world champions Italy and host nation South Africa in the competition.

Egypt have been the dominant force in African football in recent years, winning the Africa Cup of Nations in 2006 and 2008. However, the African champions have been less successful on the World Cup stage, last playing in a World Cup finals at Italia 1990, and are hoping to make amends by qualifying for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
Such an achievement would be the minimum goal for an Egyptian team that has achieved a lot in the last four years.

Not only have Egypt won the African title twice in a row, thereby achieving the record of the team having won the competition the most times, a number of its stars, most prominent among them striker Amr Zaki, have been brought to the attention of European clubs. Moreover, last year’s competition in Ghana clearly showed that the team has finally learned to deal with big tournaments. But the aspirations have now become bigger. After dominating the African scene Egypt now want to take their success to a global level and emerge as a new force in world football - at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

The Confederations Cup might therefore be a good opportunity to build a good team in advance of the difficult qualification for the World Cup. The Egyptian side is also looking to atone for the humiliations of the last and only Confederations Cup in which the country participated, in 1999. In that tournament, Egypt finished bottom of its group.

Due to the experience which some of the side’s players have been gaining through playing for some of Europe’s biggest clubs, and through the participation of Egyptian club sides in the Club World Cup, this side is far better prepared than the one 10 years ago. The objective is to make it into the second round after failing to do so in the 1934 and 1990 World Cups or at the 1999 Confederations Cup in Mexico.

After the well-deserved draws against Bolivia and Mexico in the first two games of the first round, Egypt experienced a resounding 5-1 defeat by Saudi Arabia in the 1999 tournament. Now the team wants to improve its international reputation. The Egyptian team combines many qualities and elements that are necessary for success.

Apart from having some dynamic young players, the squad also contains a number of experienced footballers - both from the Egyptian league as well as overseas. Also, coach Hassan Shehata has proven himself to be a successful team leader. Shehata relies on the integration of the two elements of youth and experience within the team. The experienced players provide confidence for the whole team. Ahmed Hassan is one of the formerly overseas-based players. He returned to Egypt a few months ago, after having played in professional leagues in Turkey and Belgium.

Missing from the team however are Middlesbrough striker Ahmed Hossam “Mido,” currently on loan to Wigan Athletic and Borussia Dortmund’s striker Amr Zaki. In their absence, the Pharoahs are guided by Egyptian star Mohammed Abu Terika.

After his predecessor, Italian coach Marco Tardelli, failed to secure qualification for the 2006 World Cup, coach Hassan Shehata is in a difficult situation. But despite the draw against Zambia at the beginning of the final phase of African qualifiers for the 2010 World Cup, Shehata still has great hope of qualifying for 2010. Maybe the next qualifying match at home against Algeria and then the Confederations Cup is the perfect opportunity to restore confidence and high morale of the team, which was clearly on show in the 2006 and 2008 African Championships.—dpa

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