2021 Yearender: Egypt's national team grow in confidence under Queiroz

Ahmed Abd El Rasoul , Friday 31 Dec 2021

Egypt's national football team made a significant leap in 2021, growing in confidence after some promising displays under new coach Carlos Queiroz.

Egypt s defender Omar Kamal (L) vies for the ball with Qatar s defender Abdelkarim Hassan during the FIFA Arab Cup 2021 football match for third place between Egypt and Qatar at the 974 stadium in the capital city of Doha on December 18, 2021. AFP

The 68-year old took charge of the Pharaohs in early September, succeeding Hossam El-Badri, who was shown the door after a series of unconvincing performances.

Egypt beat Angola 1-0 at home before snatching a late 1-1 draw away to Gabon in their opening two World Cup qualifiers but knives were still sharpened for El-Badri.

Although he qualified the team to the African Cup of Nations in Cameroon and enjoyed a two-year unbeaten run, El-Badri came under fire for the team's toothless displays at the World Cup qualifiers.

The World Cup qualifiers, the FIFA Arab Cup and the African Cup of Nations were the main challenges awaiting Queiroz upon his appointment, with the first being the main priority.

The former Portugal, Iran, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia coach, who never won any titles with any of the national teams, accepted the challenge, promising to do his best to qualify for the 2022 World Cup.

"It is with pride, gratitude, and ambition that I accept the honorable invitation from the Egyptian FA to be the National Team Coach," Queiroz said after his appointment.

"I want to express my commitment to use the best of my experience and knowledge to fulfill the goals and dreams of such a prestigious Football Country with passionate and dedicated supporters. To the future."

Quick tests

Queiroz seemed confident of stamping his own mark on Egypt despite having a limited time to prepare his team for a crucial double header against Libya in October and further World Cup qualifying games against Gabon and Angola in November.

"Belonging to this organisation makes me very proud," Queiroz said during his unveiling at a news conference, referring to the team's record seven Nations Cup titles, adding that it was "a history that makes us all proud of this team."

"Reaching the World Cup is a difficult target and we will seek to achieve it. There's no time for much talk, but it is the time to work to take appropriate decisions and start the journey, with God's help and the assistance of my colleagues and the EFA.

"I will dedicate my life to the players in order to develop them and bring out the best of each one of them, to make the Egyptians happy."

Queiroz made a quick impact, introducing more attacking schemes and injecting new blood into the team.

Egypt marked his competitive debut with a 1-0 home win over Libya before crushing their North African neighbours 3-0 away.

The positive results continued one month later, with a 2-2 draw at Angola taking Egypt to the final qualifying playoff round before the team defeated Gabon 2-1 in a dead-rubber.

The two-legged playoff will take place in March, with Egypt eyeing a second successive World Cup appearance.

Arab Cup journey

Another early test came in the FIFA Arab Cup in Doha, a tournament that was considered a dress rehearsal for next year's World Cup finals, which Qatar will also host.

Ahead of the competition, Queiroz repeatedly said the Arab Cup would be a good preparation for his team for both the African Cup of Nations and the March World Cup qualifying playoff.

On 18 December, Egypt finished fourth in the Arab Cup after losing 5-4 on penalties to hosts Qatar following a drab goalless draw.

Egypt were largely inconsistent in the tournament, having produced some solid displays early on before delivering dull performances against Tunisia in the semis and Qatar in the third-place contest.

The outcome brought some criticism of Queiroz but he didn't seem to bother too much, having fulfilled his target of testing new players, many of whom had repaid his faith.

Queiroz did not have the chance to call any of his European-based players, given that the Arab Cup falls outside of the international calendar.

"We fulfilled our targets by giving a chance to young players. It was not possible before to watch them in action. Generally, I'm happy," Queiroz said after the Qatar game.

"There are lessons to be learned. I have to thank the players because they deserve to hear some good words.

"Of course we had ambitions to reach the final or at least finish third, but luck was not on our side. I hope we will get better, especially that we have big challenges ahead in the Nations Cup and World Cup qualifiers," he added.

Queiroz's first real test lies in the Nations Cup, which will take place in Cameroon from 9 January to 6 February.

In their bid to win a record-extending eighth African Nations Cup, Egypt will play in Group D of the biennial tournament along with Nigeria, Sudan and minnows Guinea-Bissau.

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