مِصر / Egypt
- Capital: Cairo / القاهرة
- Official Languages: Arabic
- National Languages: Egyptian Arabic
- Nicknames: الفراعنة (The Pharaohs)
- Association: الإتحاد المصري لكرة القدم / Egyptian Football Association (EFA)
- FIFA Code: EGY
- Best World Cup Result (Men): Round of 16 (1934)
- Best World Cup Result (Women): Not Qualified
- Best AFCON/CAN Result (Men): WINNERS (7 times)
- Best AFCON/CAN Result (Women): Group Stage (1998, 2016)
- Best Arab Cup Result (Men): WINNERS (1992)
- Best UNAF Tournament Result (Women): Third Place (2009)
- Highest FIFA Ranking (Men): 9th (July-September 2010, December 2010)
- Highest FIFA Ranking (Women): 58th (December 2005)
- Lowest FIFA Ranking (Men): 75th (March 2013)
- Lowest FIFA Ranking (Women): 121st (March 2008)
- Most Capped Player: Ahmed Hassan – 184 caps
- Top Scorer: Hossam Hassan – 68 goals
The Arab Republic of Egypt (جمهورية مصر العربية) is situated in Africa’s northeastern corner, connecting the continent with Asia. The majestic Nile traverses through the entire length of the country and flows out into the Mediterranean Sea in the north of the country, with the river being central and critical to the country’s extensive and glorious history over thousands of years. Egypt also shares a number of land borders with countries from three different confederations curiously. Fellow CAF members Libya and Sudan are located to Egypt’s west and south respectively, whilst it shares a land border in the Sinai peninsula with UEFA member Israel, and AFC member Palestine (via the Gaza Strip) in the far northeast. The Gulf of Aqaba, part of the Red Sea, separates Egypt from both Jordan and Saudi Arabia to Egypt’s northwest and west respectively. It is the only country in Africa which has coastlines on both the Mediterranean and Red Sea, whilst having the critically important Suez Canal in the northwest of Egypt, dividing the Sinai peninsula from the rest of the country.
The first Egyptian national team appeared in 1920 to take part in that year’s Summer Olympics, becoming the first African side to compete in the tournament. Their first officially recognised game was a 2-1 defeat to Italy in Ghent. A year after that Olympic entry, the Egyptian FA was founded, with Egypt becoming a full member of FIFA in 1923, with their first World Cup appearance coming in 1934, making them the first ever African qualifier for the World Cup. In their Round of 16 match, the side took on Hungary in Napoli, and despite fighting back to level the game to 2-2, lost their match 4-2. That would be their only World Cup appearance in 56 years, when they finally qualified for their second World Cup in 1990, coincidentally held once again in Italy. Drawn in a ridiculously tough group alongside England, the Republic of Ireland, and the defending European champions of the Netherlands, they managed a 1-1 draw with the Dutch with Magdi Abdelghani scoring an 83rd minute penalty equaliser, and a goalless draw with Ireland, before a Mark Wright goal in the 58th minute condemned the Pharaohs to a 1-0 defeat and failure to progress to the knockout stage. Nonetheless, Egypt had competed very admirably in a tough group.
It would be another long wait for the Egyptian to make their third appearance in the World Cup, this time only waiting 28 years when they qualified for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Despite some experts tipping them to progress from their group, defeats to Uruguay, the hosts Russia, and disappointingly Saudi Arabia condemned Egypt to finish bottom of their group once again. For such an illustrious history, it’s very surprising that Egypt have only appeared in three World Cups and not progressed beyond the group stage since the phase was introduced.
However, Egypt’s record in the African Cup of Nations is far superior and displays their role as one of the strongest (if not, THE strongest) footballing countries on the continent. They were one of the founding members of CAF in 1957, with the confederation having its headquarters in the country’s capital of Cairo. They were also the very first champions of Africa having won the first two editions of the competition in 1957 and 1959 (which they hosted), beating Ethiopia 4-0 in the 1957 final in Sudan, and Sudan 2-1 in 1959 (as the United Arab Republic), before suffering defeat in the 1962 AFCON final to Ethiopia 4-2 after extra time.
Despite failing to reach the final when Egypt hosted the AFCON tournament in 1974, they would again win the AFCON title on home soil in 1986 when they overcame Cameroon on penalties after a goalless draw. A fourth title was added in 1998 after defeating the defending African champions South Africa 2-0 in Burkina Faso, before achieving yet another title on home turf when they won the 2006 AFCON title by beating Côte d’Ivoire on penalties. This would be the start of the dominant period of Egypt within African football as they managed to clinch three AFCON consecutive titles, beating Cameroon 1-0 in 2008, and Ghana 1-0 in 2010. Surprisingly following their period of dominance, the Pharaohs then failed to qualify for the next three AFCONs until they reached yet another final in the 2017 AFCON. However they were unable to win their eighth title, losing 2-1 to Cameroon in the final despite taking the lead through Mohamed Elneny in the 22nd minute.
- CAF’s Highlights of the 2006 AFCON Final: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z7_Olj5-tUU
Egypt hosted their fifth AFCON in 2019 but were unable to repeat the feats of 1959, 1986, and 2006 when they were knocked out of the competition in the Round of 16. Despite winning all three of their group games, they surprisingly lost 1-0 to South Africa, who had qualified for the knockout stage as one of the best third-placed teams from the group phase. Regardless, Egypt are still the most successful team in AFCON history having won the tournament a record seven times, and with the team having qualified for the upcoming AFCON tournament in Cameroon, along with one of the best players in the world in Mohamed Salah, you certainly couldn’t bet against them achieving their eighth African title in 2022!
Talking about the most successful nation within the African Cup of Nations, who have won the continental competition a record 7 times, most recently winning three in a row between 2006 and 2010, we interviewed the excellent Hosam from Pharaohs XI. Pharaohs XI is an English language Twitter account which reports on all things involving Egypt’s national football team, which includes in-depth news, stats, photos, videos, and in-depth analysis about the Pharaohs. To find their social media accounts, follow the links below:
- Twitter: @PharaohsXI
Q. Who would you say is your country’s best player and coach/manager of all-time, and the reasonings behind the choices?
This feels nearly impossible to answer, and comes down more to who one’s favorite player is rather than who the “best” is per se. If I had to pick one, as objectively as possible, I think by now I can say it’s Mohamed Salah. Egypt has produced several players that fans generally can consider the best ever, though only Salah and Mahmoud El-Khatib ever won the African Player of the Year award. Ahmed Hassan, Hossam Hassan, Essam El-Hadary, Hassan El-Shazly, Hany Ramzy, and Mohamed Aboutrika may be others that deserve honorable mentions. Of course, Hussein Hegazy was a bit of a trailblazer, playing for English clubs way back in 1911. Hazem Emam was probably Egypt’s most skilled player of all time, though certainly not the “best” overall.
As for Egypt’s best manager ever, it definitely comes down to Hassan Shehata vs. Mahmoud El-Gohary. The answer may depend slightly on which generation you come from, though both generations overlap a bit. Hassan Shehata did win 3 successive AFCONs, but Mahmoud El-Gohary added a World Cup appearance to his AFCON title as coach. If I absolutely had to pick one, I’m going with El-Gohary. His influence actually extended into the Shehata era, as he coached some of Shehata’s key players early in their careers. It’s a really a toss-up though. There are no foreign coaches on this list simply because Egypt’s FA has hardly ever put forth the funds to hire a decent non-Egyptian manager. Egyptians like to say that Egypt does its best with an Egyptian manager, but they ignore the fact that there have hardly been any good non-Egyptian managers in the first place, and that the team has also failed miserably under plenty of Egyptian managers.
Q. Who could be regarded as a ‘cult hero’ in terms of the national team both in the past and present?
Again this could be one of several names. Salah and El-Khatib come straight to mind once more. Hossam Hassan is definitely up there, as he was Egypt’s deadliest striker for years, got the team into the 1990 World Cup, won a penalty at that World Cup that helped Egypt to a 1-1 draw with then-European champs Holland. He was top scorer at the 1998 AFCON as well, which Egypt won. Aboutrika also could certainly be considered Egypt’s biggest cult hero ever. Some of the ‘cult’ heroes were divided along club lines, and depended on whether you supported Al Ahly or Zamalek.
Q. Of the current team, who would you say is the best player in the Egyptian national side currently?
That’s definitely Mohamed Salah. It’s not all the time Egypt can confidently say it has one of the best 5 or 10 players in the world. Guys like Mohamed El-Shenawy (32-year-old goalkeeper currently with Al Ahly) and Ahmed Hegazy (30-year-old centre-back on loan at Saudi club Al-Ittihad from West Bromwich Albion) are indispensable, but Salah is certainly the best overall player on the team.
Q. How would you describe the current state/performance of the national team?
Dire. The FA continues to prove incompetent despite other institutions in the country, including the sports ministry, showing improvement. The FA failed to land any of the most suitable, realistic managerial targets once Javier Aguirre was sacked following the 2019 AFCON, and settled on what was probably not even the best Egyptian candidate in Hossam El-Badry. The team has mostly looked stale and uninspired since he took over. The Pharaohs qualified for the next AFCON, but it’s almost harder for them not to after the expansion to 24 teams. I don’t see Egypt qualifying for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, but I sincerely hope I’m wrong.
Q. Are there any Egyptian players who you think we should be focusing on for the future – who would you say is the most exciting up & coming talent from the country?
Some names off the top of my head include Mohsen Saleh [22-year-old forward at Al Ahly], Mostafa Mohamed [23-year-old forward on loan at Galatasaray from Zamalek], Ahmed Yasser Rayyan [23-year-old striker also at Al Ahly but having recently played on loan with Ceramica Cleopatra], and Nasser Maher [24-year-old attacking midfielder also currently at Al Ahly], all of whom are on Egypt’s U23 squad that will compete in the Tokyo Olympics. Omar Marmoush [22-year-old forward] is one to keep an eye on as well. He’s currently plying his trade in Germany [with VfL Wolfsburg]. And one very intriguing prospect is Moustafa Ashraf [17-year-old central midfielder currently playing in the youth teams of Borussia Mönchengladbach], who currently plays for Germany’s U17s. Egyptian fans are clamoring for the FA to make sure he ends up in a Pharaohs jersey at the senior level.
Q. Looking at Egypt’s international history, what would you say has been the best game, result or performance for the national team in your opinion?
There have been so many. I think our most impressive tournament was the 2008 AFCON, the 2nd of 3 successive AFCON titles. Despite a very impressive showing in 2006 en route to the title, some African and regional football fans were saying the team only won the competition because Egypt hosted it. So, to step-up the level of performance, and then win the crown on foreign soil once again, was special.
- CAF’s Highlights of the 2008 AFCON Final: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tN480GY1qrM
For me, of all the impressive shows of character, the best was at the 1999 FIFA Confederations Cup. Egypt was down to 10-men, in the rain at the Azteca Stadium in Mexico City against the hosts with just 10 minutes remaining. They ended up fighting back for a 2-2 draw. It was the only match in that tournament that Mexico didn’t win.
The most entertaining match may have been Egypt’s 4-3 loss to Mexico 10 years later at the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup.
The most memorable win for fans in general may have been the 1-0 victory over defending World Cup champs Italy at that same 2009 Confederations Cup. It was also the first competitive win over Italy for an African nation.
Q. Likewise, is there a performance or result which is regarded as the team’s lowest point?
That would probably be the 6-1 loss to Ghana in a 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying playoff. Everything that could possibly go wrong did go wrong that day for Egypt. It was a nightmare that any Egypt fan will tell you hurts to this day.
In second place I’d say is the 5-1 loss to Saudi Arabia at the 1999 FIFA Confederations Cup. The anger there, though, is with match officials. Egypt ended up having 3 men sent off and the circumstances surrounding those expulsions were quite puzzling, to put it mildly. This seems to be a theme with any competitive match with Saudi Arabia though, as Egypt was also the victim of two extremely dubious penalties against the Saudis at the last World Cup in Russia. VAR officials buzzed referee Wilmar Roldán to take a look at his calls again, but he refused to reverse them. Roldán himself has quite the controversial reputation.
- Highlights for the Saudi Arabia vs. Egypt game in the 2018 World Cup:
Q. What are the best and worst things about being a fan of the Egyptian national team?
Great question. I’d say the best things are the rich history, the passionate fans, and the cool things brands like Puma have done with our nickname/uniform. It’s also nice going into every AFCON feeling like you have a chance to go all the way.
The worst thing, by far, is the incompetence of the FA. It isn’t hyperbole to declare that Egypt’s FA is the national team’s worst enemy. It routinely fails to prioritize the Pharaohs, always approaches the national team in the most miserly and greedy ways, and never cares to apply lessons from past mistakes. Stories abound about how Egypt’s FA low-balled top managerial candidates in the past, from the late Bruno Metsu, to most recently Hervé Renard, and Vahid Halilhodžić. Egypt had actually come to terms with Halilhodžić before reversing course and telling him their “budget” had suddenly been reduced, causing him to walk away. Suffice it to say, Egypt has never and can never take that next step until there is a complete, revolutionary overhaul of the FA. Top clubs in Egypt are generally run better than the national team, including enjoying superior coaching staffs.
Q. Have the fans adopted some kind of unofficial anthem to sing along to before/during/after matches?
Fans in Egypt like to all sing along to the national anthem before matches, but aside from some short chants, it’s the clubs that have the more established, longer songs and chants.
Q. Do you have a favourite or iconic shirt from the whole time of the national team?
Another good question. I’ve collected just about every national team shirt since 1998. In no particular order my favorites are the 2006 shirt from Puma with a Pharaoh print on the front, the 2010 shirt from Puma with a Pharaoh print on the chest, the 2011/12 Puma shirt with a hieroglyphics background on the front, and then the 1999 Puma shirt at the FIFA Confederations Cup, for sentimental reasons. It was our first exclusive design from a big kit sponsorship deal.
Q. Finally, what are your hopes for the future of the Egyptian national team?
My future hopes for Egypt’s national team, and I hope these can be achieved sooner than later, are as follows:
- A complete and utter revolution/makeover of Egypt’s FA. That includes prioritizing the national team financially, checks and balances to ensure budgets are being spent responsibly (prioritizing the position of national team manager) and not ending up in the pockets of those in charge, diversifying the club and individual backgrounds of FA employees to limit the rampant nepotism we see today, and more. Stop shooting your national team in the foot by cheaping out on managers and pocketing the difference.
- I hope Egyptian football authorities keep a much closer eye on and assume a more proactive role scouting Egyptian talents all over the world, especially in Europe. Egypt is in danger of losing some potential gems because of the lack of attention to this.
- More immediately and tangibly, I, of course, hope we can qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. I’m just not optimistic about it at all thanks to the FA’s incomptience. It’s been the same broken record of hiring terrible managers because they happen to be cheap, and occasionally lucking out with a Mahmoud El-Gohary or Hassan Shehata. Hossam El-Badry is neither.
A massive شكرا جزيلا لك to the superb Hosam from Pharaohs XI for answering our questions on the Pharaohs. Remember you can find their excellent social media accounts in the links at the top of the blogpage.
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