Successful debut

Alaa Abdel-Ghani , Tuesday 26 Mar 2024

In his first game as Egypt’s football coach, Hossam Hassan came out the winner, reports Alaa Abdel-Ghani

Egypt s football coach, Hossam Hassan came out the winner
Egypt s football coach, Hossam Hassan came out the winner


Egypt defeated New Zealand 1-0 on Friday in Hossam Hassan’s first game in charge of the Pharaohs.

The win was part of a friendly tournament in which Croatia beat Tunisia on penalties in the other semi-final.

Egypt were scheduled to meet Croatia in the final on Tuesday after Al-Ahram Weekly went to press.

Mustafa Mohamed, Mahmoud Trezeguet, and Emam Ashour linked up brilliantly for Egypt’s only goal, a penalty won by Ashour after he was fouled in the box. The penalty was given in the 23rd minute following a lengthy VAR review.

Nantes’ forward Mustafa Mohamed converted what proved to be the winning goal.

The goal proved costly, though, as Ashour, 26, suffered a dislocated shoulder after falling to the ground, was substituted, will need surgery and will reportedly be out for at least two months.

In the 80th minute, holding midfielder Marwan Ateya was denied a potential goal of the season contender as his long-range shot rattled the bar.

The tournament was originally scheduled to take place in the United Arab Emirates and was called the Winsunited Cup. For sponsorship reasons, it was moved to Egypt on short notice and took the name Egypt Capital Cup.

The matches were played in the New Administrative Capital in the new state of the art Egypt Stadium. Egypt Stadium can accommodate nearly 94,000 spectators, becoming the country’s largest arena after the famed Cairo International Stadium which accommodates up to 80,000 fans.

Coach Hassan, who took over last month, acknowledged the strength of the New Zealand team, describing them as a formidable opponent with European-caliber tactics and physicality. “It is always important to have a good start. It was important for us to win the first game and to put on a good performance. We played against an organised team with many good players but our players had a good game and I am happy that we are in the final,” Hassan stated after the game. 

“This game will go down in history as the first game to be played at this amazing stadium. We are all proud that we have such an outstanding stadium and I am so happy that the first international match at the stadium ended in our favour.” 

Hassan, Egypt’s all-time international scoring leader, is using the tournament as a warm-up for the 2026 World Cup qualifiers which will resume on 3 June with a home match against Burkina Faso followed by an away game against Guinea Bissau a week later. 

Egypt are placed in Group A alongside Burkina Faso, Guinea Bissau, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Sierra Leone. Egypt won their first two games against Djibouti and Sierra Leone.

The 2026 World Cup, to be played in the US, Canada and Mexico, will have an unprecedented 48 teams, including a possible 10 from Africa instead of the normal five, making the chances of Egypt’s appearance relatively high. Egypt have gone to only three World Cups.

Hassan took over from Portuguese Rui Vitoria after Egypt’s ouster from the Africa Cup Nations in round 16 in February. It was a miserable performance by the Pharaohs who have won the AFCON a record seven times and were finalists in 2022.

In Saturday’s other semi-final, Croatia secured their place in the highly anticipated final against Egypt by defeating Tunisia in a thrilling penalty shootout, with a final score of 5-4, following a goalless 90 minutes.

Egypt’s Liverpool superstar Mohamed Salah did not appear in the tournament after a mutual decision was reached between Salah, his club and the Egyptian Football Association that it would be best for the player’s safety that he not participate following a hamstring injury he picked up in January in the Africa Cup of Nations.

Filling the superstar void was Croatia and Real Madrid midfielder Luka Modric, voted the world’s best player in 2018. Modric took it rather easy against Tunisia, being pulled off in the second half. Modric and company visited the Pyramids the next day wearing the team’s tracksuit uniform.

From the outset, the 2018 World Cup finalists, 2022 third placed team, and currently No 10 in the world, showcased their dominance against Tunisia, with their possession at around an unusually high 75 per cent.

In the penalty shootout that followed, Croatia found the back of the net five times out of seven attempts. Tunisia missed three penalties.

Tunisia and New Zealand were set to play for third place.

* A version of this article appears in print in the 28 March, 2024 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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