Egyptian sports in 2016: Five things to accomplish

Hatem Maher , Friday 1 Jan 2016

Egypt's national football team, Cairo duo Ahly and Zamalek, in-form midfielder Mohamed Elneny and athletes and Squash players have tasks to fulfill in the New Year


Egyptian sports fans will be awaiting five main things to be achieved in the New Year. Here are they: 

1-Reaching African Cup of Nations (Egypt)

Egypt's national team

An African Cup of Nations qualification has previously been a walk of the park for the Egyptian national team but some stunning failures in recent years led to fears that the reign of the mighty Pharaohs might be over for quite a long time.

With reaching the tournament being largely a formality, Egypt swept Africa with a hat-trick of Nations Cup titles in 2006, 2008 and 2010 - an unprecedented achievement in the continent.

However, a political upheaval following the 2011 January revolution that unseated autocratic president Hosni Mubarak dearly affected the team, who have failed to qualify for the biennial tournament three times in a row.

Coaches Hassan Shehata, the mastermind behind the three successive Nations Cup triumphs, and his former assistant Shawky Gharib were the victims of two of the three failures to reach the tournament and the minimal task of incumbent coach Hector Cuper is to ensure this would not happen this time around.

Egypt have made a convincing start to the 2017 qualifying campaign, garnering maximum six points from two games after comfortable victories over Tanzania and Chad in Group G.

However, crucial tests against main challengers Nigeria are still to come in 2016, and the results of the two games pitting Egypt and the Super Eagles against each other in March will largely determine who will book the group ticket to Gabon.

2-Winning African Champions League (Ahly and Zamalek)

Egyptian giants Ahly and Zamalek
Egyptian giants Ahly and Zamalek

The sight of Egypt and Africa's prestigious clubs Ahly and Zamalek playing in the Confederation Cup, the continent's secondary club competition, was unfamiliar last season but both are back in the elite Champions League, which they won 13 times between them.

Ahly, the record winners with eight titles under their belt, bowed out of the Champions League last season from a preliminary round and were demoted to the Confederation Cup, which they exited at the last-four stage after a stunning 5-3 aggregate defeat by South Africa's Orlando Pirates.

Zamalek took part in the Confederation Cup from the outset and were also eliminated in the semis after an equally surprising 5-4 aggregate loss to eventual winners Etoile Sahel of Tunisia.

With Zamalek winning the domestic league for the first time since 2004 and Ahly finishing as runners-up, both are back to their favourite competition.

Zamalek, who won the last of their five Champions League titles in 2002, will start their campaign against Cameroon's US Douala or Nimba of Liberia while Ahly will face either Racing Micomiseng of Equatorial Guinea or Angola's Recreativo Libolo.

3-Making impact with Arsenal (Mohamed Elneny)

Egypt's midfielder Mohamed Elneny

Mohamed Elneny, a composed central midfielder, is finally in the spotlight after some consistent displays with Swiss giants Basel over the past three years as he closes in on a dream move to Arsenal in the English Premier League.

The 23-year-old joins a long list of Egyptian footballers who had tasted Premier League football over the past 15 years, hoping to become the most successful among them after several made promising starts before faltering quickly.

Elneny was rewarded for his consistency, having been a regular member of Basel's starting line-up since joining, helping them to three consecutive league triumphs.

The injury crisis of Arsenal might allow him to play some games and, in a closely-fought Premier League title race, he will have to grasp any chance by both hands if he is to demonstrate he can perform well in arguably the best league competition in the world.

Elneny joins the likes of Ibrahim Said (Everton), Mido (Tottenham Hotspur, Wigan Athletic, Middlesbrough, West Ham), Hossam Ghaly (Tottenham Hotspur, Derby County), Mohamed Shawky (Middlesbrough), Amr Zaki (Wigan Athletic, Hull City), Ahmed Elmohamady (Sunderland, Hull City), Gedo, Ahmed Fathi (Hull City) and Mohamed Salah (Chelsea), who have all played in the Premier League in the past 15 years.

4-Winning medals at Rio de Janeiro Games (Athletes)

Egypt's javelin thrower Ihab Abdel-Rahman

Egypt will be eager to reach the heights of 2004 when its athletes take part in the summer Olympic Games in Brazil's Rio de Janeiro, with some promising faces determined to leave their mark.

Less than 12 years ago, Egypt won five medals in Athens, including gold, to end a long drought stretching back 1984 when Mohamed Rashwan won a silver medal in Judo at the Los Angeles Games.

Javelin thrower Ihab Abdel-Rahman is among those who shoulder Egypt's hopes for an Olympic medal in Rio after gifting the country with its first ever world medal in Athletics, having won silver at the World Championships in Beijing last year.

A couple of swimmers are also likely to take a shot at a medal.

United States-trained Farida Osman became the first-ever Egyptian to qualify for the women’s 50m butterfly final at the 2015 FINA World Championships in Kazan after finishing fifth and Ahmed Akram followed suit in the men's contest after finishing fourth in the 1500m final for the country's best-ever position.

Egypt won two silver medals at the 2012 London Games: Alaaeldin Abouelkassem in Fencing and Karam Gaber in wrestling.

5-Winning World Championship (Squash)

Egypt's squash player Mohamed Elshorbagy

Egypt will be hoping to regain the World Championship title in Squash which the country had lost in 2015 when Frenchman Gregory Gaultier beat Omar Mosaad in the men's final and the women's contest was postponed.

Raneem El Weleily, who lost the 2014 final, was unlucky that the World Championship was not held last year as she was in the form of her life, having topped the world ranking for the first time in her career.

World number one Mohamed Elshorbagy, winner of the British Open in 2015, also suffered a surprise defeat by Englishman James Willstrop in the World Championship round of 16, the loss which will make him eager to make amends in 2016.

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

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