Way back in 1990, when Egypt last reached the World Cup …

Karim Farouk , Sunday 8 Oct 2017

After 28 years, the Pharaohs are back to the World Cup but many things have changed in the world of football since then

Egypt v the Netherlands at the 1990 World Cup (Photo: Planet World Cup)

* From the current crop of Egypt players, only eight were born to watch the likes of Hossam Hassan, Magdi Abdel-Ghani, Gamal Abdel-Hamid play among the world's elite in 1990. Essam El-Hadary (44), Sherif Ekramy (34), Ahmed Fathi (32), Mohamed Abdel-Shafi (32), Ahmed Elmohamady (29), Ali Gabr (30), Tarek Hamed (31) and Abdallah El-Said (32) are the only footballers in the current Egypt squad to have watched the 1990 Italy finals. 

* Egypt scored a solitary goal at the 1990 World Cup - a penalty converted by midfielder Magdi Abdel-Ghani in a remarkable 1-1 draw with then European champions the Netherlands boasting the likes of Marco Van Basten, Ronald Koeman, Frank Rijkaard and Ruud Gullit. He still boasts about being the "only Egyptian player to score at the World Cup", prompting a flurry of sarcastic remarks from Egyptian fans, many of whom said they only hope the national team would qualify for the Russia finals to score there and silence Abdel-Ghani. 

* Late and iconic coach Mahmoud El-Gohary was in charge of the Pharaohs in 1990. Since then, Egypt have had 19 coaches (8 foreigners and 11 Egyptians) in charge of their quest for another World Cup ticket until Argentinean tactician Hector Cuper got the job done.

* Playing overseas in the late 80s and early 90s was a luxury that not many players could have afforded, especially with European clubs not interested in luring talents from outside the continent. The Pharaohs had only two foreign-based players: Magdi Abdel-Ghani playing at Portuguese side Beira Mar and Magdy Tolba at Greek side Paok. Today the Egyptian squad includes more than 15-foreign based players plying their trade in some of the best leagues including the Premier League, the world’s richest league.

* When Egypt qualified for the 1990 World Cup, the country's football association decided to call off the league competition to give El-Gohary more time to prepare his side for the prestigious showpiece. The EFA is unlikely to do the same this time around. 

* In the African qualifiers, 26 nations in total entered the qualifiers. After leading Group B, Egypt beat Algeria 1-0 on aggregate in the play-off game while Cameroon beat Tunisia 3-0 on aggregate. In the 2018 World Cup qualifiers, 54 members entered the qualifiers but Zimbabwe were expelled after failing to pay overdue money to a former coach.

• Africa had only two spots and it was represented by Egypt and Cameroon. While the Pharaohs were eliminated from the first round after a 1-1 draw against Netherlands, a 0-0 draw with Ireland and a 1-0 defeat by England, Cameroon became the surprise package of the tournament. Led by the evergreen Roger Milla, the Indomitable Lions stunned defending champions Argentina in the opening game and went on to qualify for the quarter-finals, becoming the first African country to reach such heights. The African spots increased afterwards to three then five. Africa will have 9 spots in the 2026 World Cup.

* 116 countries participated in the 1990 World Cup qualifiers while 211 FIFA members were eligible to participate in the 2018 World Cup qualifiers. Zimbabwe and Indonesia were expelled before the start of the qualifiers.

* 22 teams qualified for the Italy edition in addition to defending champions Argentina and the host country and they were divided into six groups. The reigning champions spot has been eliminated and the current format requires the holders to enter the qualifiers, with only the hosts guaranteed an automatic spot.

* The Italy edition was marked by defensive tactics; the tournament generated a record low goals-per-game average of 2.21 goals per game (115 goals in 52 games). FIFA banned the back-pass rule after the tournament as players used to pass the ball back for the keeper to pick it up and waste some time. Egypt were guilty of repeatedly doing so in a bore 0-0 group-stage draw with Ireland. The winner was awarded only 2 points but, to encourage attacking football, FIFA changed the rule to make it 3 starting from the 1994 World Cup.

* Teams were allowed to make only two substitutions. They are currently allowed to make three substitutions.

* The teams’ squads at the 1990 World Cup included 22 players compared to 23 in the current format.

* In 1990, the tickets' prices ranged from $25 for the cheapest seat in a first-round match to $475 for the most expensive seat in the final. In Russia 2018, the prices range from $115 to $1100.

* The 1990 World Cup was recorded and transmitted with a set of 12 cameras for each game. This was the first World Cup to be officially recorded and transmitted in HDTV by the Italian broadcaster RAI in association with Japan's NHK. In 2014, all the 64 matches were produced on the basis of a 34-HD camera plan as well as 4k and 8k camera coverage.

* Some countries who have disappeared while others have changed as Czechoslovakia (now Czech Republic and Slovakia), West Germany (Germany), Soviet Union (now Russia) and Yugoslavia (now Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia) featured for the last time in the tournament.

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