2019 sports yearender: Egypt's Olympic side give remedy to disgruntled fans

Ahram Online , Saturday 28 Dec 2019

In a series of stories, Ahram Online compiles the remarkable sporting events of 2019

Egypt celebrates winning Africa Under 23 Cup of Nations with the trophy (Photo: Reuters)

Egypt's U23 side succeeded where their seniors failed, ensuring the year would not be disastrous for national teams as the country hosted two major tournaments.

Only a few months after Egypt's senior team bowed out of the Nations Cup in embarrassing fashion, losing to South Africa in the last 16 on home soil, the U23 side provided a timely remedy.

An exciting campaign saw Egypt win the U23 African Cup of Nations in November, reaching the Olympic Games for the first time since 2012.

The senior team were largely abandoned by fans following the Nations Cup fiasco, playing before swathes of empty seats in their campaign to qualify for the 2021 edition in Cameroon.

In stark contrast, the supporters grew increasingly excited in the U23 Nations Cup, with Egypt producing some spirited displays to attract attention.

Cairo's Stadium was packed in all of Egypt's matches apart from the opening1-0 win over Mali as the Pharaohs finished the group stage with a 100 percent record, moving close towards booking a place at the Tokyo Games.

They downed South Africa 3-0 in the semis to qualify for Olympics, before shifting their attention towards winning the title for the first time.

In a thrilling final against Cote d'Ivoire, right-back Karim El-Eraki put Egypt ahead late in the first half but Aboubacar Doumbia forced an extra time by notching home at the death.

However, winger Ramadan Sobhi, who was named the tournament's best player, capped his efforts with a memorable winner in the 114th minute.

"It was so important to make all those people happy," Egypt coach Shawky Gharib said after the match, pointing to the crowd.

"Three months ago, they left the stadium unhappy, but today it's another story."

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