Indifference prevails as Egypt bow out in embarrassing fashion

Hatem Maher , Sunday 7 Jul 2019,
Egypt fans
Egypt fans react after their match with South Africa (Photo: REUTERS)

Two years ago, gloom hung over Egypt after the national team agonizingly missed out on a record-extending eighth Nations Cup crown following a bitter 2-1 defeat by Cameroon in the final in Gabon.

But on Saturday, a brief feeling of pain made way for indifference as hosts Egypt crashed out of the biennial tournament in an embarrassing fashion, conceding a late goal from South Africa's Thembinkosi Lorch to slump to a 1-0 defeat in the round of 16 in Cairo.

For many supporters, justice has been done.

Egypt labored with some lethargic displays in the group stage, producing none of the attacking flair that was the hallmark of their hat-trick of Nations Cup titles a decade ago nor the defensive solidity which took them to the final in Gabon.

The Pharaohs lacked any identity despite chalking up wins over unfancied Zimbabwe, DR Congo and Uganda. Against South Africa, they were caught in no man's land.

Their cracks could not have opened up at a worse time, with Lorch finishing off a breakaway five minutes from time to punish Egypt for a needless push up the field, which left their defence exposed to any counter attacks.

Mexican coach Javier Aguirre was partly blamed by angry supporters for failing to deliver the brand of pretty football he promised when he took over last year, replacing Argentinean Hector Cuper who came in for fierce criticism for what many deemed his overly-cautious approach.

But the players took much of the blame, with only Liverpool's Mohamed Salah considered a world-class player in an otherwise mediocre squad.

Off-the-pitch problems

But the tactical aspects were not the only reason many supporters felt Egypt deserved to exit the Nations Cup on home soil to mark their worst ever outcome as hosts.

A controversial saga surrounding winger Amr Warda overshadowed Egypt's campaign as he was accused by several women of sending lewd messages to them via Whatsapp.

The Egyptian Football Association could have ended any possible distractions had it stuck to its original decision of expelling Warda from the tournament, only to backtrack under apparent pressure from some leading players, including Salah and skipper Ahmed Elmohamady.

An angry social media campaign against the team ensued, with a Twitter hashtag describing the players as "sexual harassers" trending.

"They have all let us down. Nothing was right, absolutely nothing. They were poor on the pitch and not disciplined outside it, and they paid the price of standing by a sexual harasser like Warda. I'm not unhappy that they were knocked out in such a humiliating way," said one Twitter user.

Others also vented their anger at the EFA, describing it as incompetent following another embarrassment, which came exactly a year after Egypt failed to bag a single point at the World Cup.

"We need a complete overhaul; things will not work that way. All of those officials proved their failure more than once, they should never be given any other chances."

EFA chief Hany Abo Rida and the entire board of directors stepped down following the defeat, having also dismissed Aguirre.

Local media also reported that an investigation would be launched by government watchdogs over "financial and administrative violations" committed by the EFA.

In any case, a great deal of soul-searching would be needed if Egypt were to restore their glory days.

"I would support the national team again if they proved serious in overhauling the corrupt football system," one fan said.

(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO_Sports and on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports.)

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