Egypt's 2019 AFCON player profiles: Hegazi, the imposing defender

Ahmed Abd El Rasoul , Saturday 15 Jun 2019,
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Hegazi

Despite being away from top-flight football last season following West Bromwich's relegation to the Championship, defender Ahmed Hegazi is still a favourite option for Egypt coach Javier Aguirre in the heart of a four-man defence.

A towering defender who produces consistent and solid performances at the back, Hegazi's place in the starting line-up is undisputed.

He is seen by many as the second most-important player in Egypt's squad after talisman Mohamed Salah. An imposing defender (1.95m tall), Hegazi is dominant in the air, unbeatable in physical battles and has great awareness. He lacks speed but his excellent positioning helps him predict the next move of opposing strikers. 

Under Aguirre's predecessor Hector Cuper, the 28-year-old was instrumental in Egypt's 2017 African Nations Cup campaign that saw the Pharaohs reach the final before losing to Cameroon 2-1.

He was named in the tournament's best XI along with compatriot Salah to catch the eyes of then Premier League side West Bromwich. 

He also played an key role in helping Egypt reach last year's World Cup for the first time since 1990. Hegazi remained a first choice for Cuper at the Russia finals, but Egypt were eliminated from the first round after the three loses against Uruguay, Russia and Saudi Arabia.

The former Ismaily and Ahly defender made his Egypt debut in a Nations Cup qualifier against Sierra Leone in 2011 and has since become a key member of the team.

Making 51 appearances, Hegazi only scored two international goals, which came against Botswana in 2013 and against Swaziland in 2018. In his first season in the Premier League in 2017/2018, he delivered some eye-catching and solid displays and featured in all of West Brom's matches. 

He remained loyal for the Baggies despite their relegation and produced a series of superb displays to help them push for promotion to the top flight,  but they lost in the playoffs. He was chosen by West Brom's supporters as the team's best player this season. 

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3 0 0 9
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1 1 1 4
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1 0 2 3
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0 1 2 1
Group B W D L P
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2 1 0 7
Nigeria
2 0 1 6
Guinea
1 1 1 4
Burundi
0 0 3 0
Group C W D L P
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3 0 0 9
Senegal
2 0 1 6
Kenya
1 0 2 3
Tanzania
0 0 3 0
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2 0 1 6
South Africa
1 0 2 3
Namibia
0 0 3 0
Group E W D L P
Mali
2 1 0 7
Tunisia
0 3 0 3
Angola
0 2 1 2
Mauritania
0 2 1 2
Group F W D L P
Ghana
1 2 0 5
Cameroon
1 2 0 5
Benin
0 3 0 3
Guinea Bissau
0 1 2 1