2010: Mixed fortunes for Egyptian football

Hatem Maher, Wednesday 29 Dec 2010

The rise and fall of Egypt, the clubs’ poor results in Africa and Zamalek’s comeback from the dead

Pharaohs celebrates their 7th ACN title

At the beginning of 2010, Egypt demonstrated that they were still Africa’s undisputed number one team, but a sudden dip in form in the latter stages of the year set alarm bells ringing.

The Pharaohs wobbled into 2010, following their painful failure to reach the World cup, after a defeat against bitter rivals Algeria, in a one-off play-off game, which took place in Sudan.

The African Cup of Nations in Angola, which was played in January, gave them the perfect opportunity to make amends and they grasped it with both hands, to emerge winners for the third consecutive time and seventh overall.

Egypt achieved this unprecedented feat in superb fashion, outplaying several of the continent’s heavyweights to lift the prestigious trophy and raise questions over how they missed out on the World cup.

En route to their triumph, Egypt beat four of Africa’s representatives in the World cup - Nigeria, Cameroon, Algeria and Ghana.

Ghana, who also made it to the World cup quarter-finals, proved a tough opponent for Egypt when both sides locked horns in the final. Egypt needed a late goal from forward Mohamed Nagy, ‘Gedo’, to win 1-0 and sparked ecstatic celebrations in the football-mad country.

Gedo frenzy

The 26-year-old was a surprise inclusion in Hassan Shehata’s squad for the Nations cup, but he raised eyebrows after finishing as the tournament’s top scorer, with five goals despite not starting any game.

He basked in a hero’s reception upon returning home but also made headlines for the wrong reasons, when he penned a deal to join Cairo giants, Zamalek before extending his contract with Alexandria-based club, Ittihad.

The protracted legal saga ended in the summer after several months of persistent speculations, with Gedo making a surprise move to Zamalek’s arch-rivals, Ahly. He wasn’t able to replicate his Egypt heroics at club level in the second half of the season.

His Egyptian teammates were not at their best either after the national team made a poor start to their 2012 African Cup of Nations qualifying campaign.

They collected just one point from their first two games in Group G after a surprise 1-1 draw at home to Sierra Leone and a stunning 1-0 defeat at tiny Niger, the results which left them at the bottom of the group.

A 2-1 friendly defeat at Qatar followed,signallingwhat some pundits perceived as ‘the beginning of a generation downfall’, but Egypt still finished 2010 in ninth place in FIFA’s national teams ranking - their highest-ever position.

Egyptians could only win one CAF award at the end of the year after Ahly midfielder Ahmed Hassan scooped the best African-based player prize.

Hassan and Gedo were included in CAF’s shortlist for the African Footballer of the Year award, but the duo were left out of the final five-man list. 

Disappointing clubs

The Egyptian clubs fared poorly in African competitions as they were outshone by some less-fancied sides in the continent.

Ismaily, who were paired with compatriots and bitter rivals Ahly, waved goodbye to the Champions League from the group stage after finishing third in Group B.

Algeria’s JS Kabylie and Ahly qualified for the semis as the group winners and runners-up respectively, but the adventure of Egypt’s remaining representative came to an end at the hands of Tunisian side, Esperance.

Esperance reached the final after beating Ahly on the away-goal rule, following a 2-2 aggregate draw, which witnessed two controversial goals at both ends.

Ahly striker Mohamed Fadl inadvertently notched home with his hand in the first leg, while Esperance’s Nigerian frontman, Michael Eneramo used his forearm to find the net in the return leg.

In the Confederation cup, Africa’s secondary club competition, Petrojet were knocked out from the preliminary rounds after losing to Tunisia’s Sfaxien 2-1 on aggregate.

Fellow-Egyptian side, Harras El-Hodoud were expected to do better, given their experience in the competition. However, they failed to reach the knockout phase for the third consecutive season.

They could not record a single win to finish fourth in Group B behind Zambia’s Zanaco, Sfaxien and group winners FUS Rabat of Morocco, who went on to win the title.

Switch of hierarchy    

In domestic football, Ahly comfortably won the Egyptian Premier League title for the sixth time on the trot, but title-winning coach Hossam El-Badry resigned a few months into the new season after a string of disappointing results.

Zamalek had their fortunes turned around by coach Hossam Hassan after enduring a barren spell prior to his arrival.

They risked the unthinkable prospect of being relegated to the second division but Egypt’s all-time leading scorer lifted them from the bottom three to a second-place finish behind champions Ahly.

The new season even witnessed a switch of hierarchy after Ahly suffered a dip in form, while Zamalek continued their surge up the table to finish the year with a comfortable six-point advantage over their city rivals.

Newcomers MCDR joined the list of company-owned clubs in the Premier League after sealing promotion from the second division.

They made a fine start to life in the top flight, while the much more popular Ittihad sank deeper after a dismal run left them at the bottom of the 16-team table.

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