The Africa Cup of Nations is upon us and of course Egypt are one of the favourites for the trophy, but that’s more based on their history in the competition, rather than from a technical stand point.
The technical favourite has different characteristics, most importantly not being absent from the last three editions of the Africa Cup of Nations like Egypt has been. The majority of Egyptian players of this current generation lack experience in the competition.
Only four players, Essam El Hadary, Ahmed Fathi, Ahmed Elmohamady and Mohamed Abdelshafy, have competed in the Africa Cup before and only two or three of them will be on the pitch. Past experience plays a critical role in these kinds of tournaments.
There are several other teams with far more continental experience while the Egyptian squad has about 20 players who have only watched the Cup on TV.
Being a favourite does not necessarily translate into victory. I expect the team to perform well but in terms of actually competing for the title and winning it, I think, realistically, is going to be difficult.
There’s nothing that can replace the experience of actually taking part in this competition because it’s completely different to playing any other games. I vividly remember my first Africa Cup of Nations in 1996; it had a very special feel to it.
Pharaohs coach, Hector Cuper, has had good results with Egypt so far yet he hasn’t escaped criticism (mainly for his defensive philosophy). But this is normal because Egyptians are very critical by nature and Cuper is not the only one to be on the receiving end of this kind of flak; the late Mahmoud El Gohary led Egypt to the World Cup in 1990 yet still came under-fire at times.
I think Egypt’s main goal is very clear right now, which is to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup (for the first time since 1990).
Of course we hope that our return to the Africa Cup is a fruitful one and that we can win but the good results we’ve had so far in the World Cup qualifiers have given us, as a Football Association and a national team, the motivation to seek more. In terms of the players to look out for in the squad, I believe Mohamed Salah, Ramadan Sobhi and Trezeguet (Mahmoud Hassan) will make quite the impact in Gabon.
The current squad has a decent number of players regularly playing abroad, along with stars from Cairo’s Ahly and Zamalek. Cuper knows he has more than enough talent on the team and he has complete faith in them, which is why he discarded several players who have been doing really well domestically in the Egyptian Premier League.
As for the competition we are facing, there are multiple teams that can be considered favourites for the Africa Cup of Nations, with Algeria being the clear frontrunner in my opinion. They have a great group of players, who play well together and are regular starters for big clubs abroad. Senegal and Ivory Coast will also be contenders.
Know more about Sport360 Application