A frustrating and disappointing end for Egypt’s campaign in the 2018 World Cup as they failed to achieve any positive results in the tournament and exited from the group stage after losing 0-1 to Uruguay, 1-3 to Russia, and 1-2 to Saudi Arabia. Egypt was the first of four participating Arab teams to make their way out of the tournament.
The 21st edition of World Cup in Russia has witnessed historic Arab participation, as four Arab football teams have qualified for the World Cup finals for the first time in history: Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, and Morocco. Unfortunately, none of them could proceed in the competition.
Liverpool star Mohamed Salah’s two goals and veteran goalkeeper Essam El-Hadary’s new World Cup record becoming the oldest player in the tournament’s history at the age of 45 were the only bright moments in Egypt’s World Cup campaign.
The Pharaohs’ unfortunate early exit from the World Cup resulted in the nonrenewal of the Argentine coach Hector Cuper’s contract as manager of the team, and the search for a new manager to lead the team in the next phase.
The Egyptian team’s performance throughout the tournament was criticised and all those interested in football spoke about the issue and the reasons that made the team waste such a historic opportunity and exist from the group stage.
Daily News Egypt spoke with some Egyptian ex-footballers who participated in the 1990 World Cup about their opinion of Egypt’s performance in Russia. The 1990 Egyptian generation was actually placed in more difficult World Cup group involving 1988 European champions Netherlands, England, and Ireland, but they managed to draw in two games and lost one, competing to qualify to next stage until the last minute.
They returned in custody of security guard and we were lifted on fans’ shoulders, says Abd Al-Hamid
Gamal Abd Al-Hamid, captain of the Egyptian national team during 1990 World Cup, told Daily News Egypt that everyone found excuses for Egypt’s disappointing exit from the World Cup.
He noted that some people attributed the players’ bad performance to administrative disputes, such as the quarrel between Hany Abu Rida, president of Egyptian Football Association (EFA), and Magdy Abdel Ghany, member of the EFA, over selling national kits on the black market and accompanying the national mission to Russia.
Meanwhile, others cited the Egyptian actors’ visit to the team in Russia, making secret press interviews with the players, lack of commitment and discipline, and Cuper’s tactics, he added. “I believe all these justifications made the players appear as if they are not responsible for their performance in the tournament, and this is not true,” Abd Al-Hamid said.
He stressed that the players were responsible for Egypt’s exit, because once the players enter the stadium, they should forget about anything and focus only on the game; however, the Egyptians did not do that. “The Egyptian players seemed unqualified to play in the World Cup. Mohamed Salah was the only one who deserved the appreciation. He was injured, though he did his best and scored two goals,” Abd Al-Hamid said.
He concluded, “w-e trained in a difficult situation and high temperatures before the 1990 World Cup, while they travelled to Russia by a private plane. We knew that the crowds are waiting for us in the street, while they knew they will return to their clubs in Europe anyway, so they lacked spirit in their play. When we returned home, we found the masses awaiting us in the airport and lifted all players on their shoulders, while the 2018 players returned in custody of security guards.”
Hossam Hassan, all-time top goal scorer of the Egyptian national team, was also among the team that qualified for the 1990 World Cup. He said that the Egyptian team lacked fighting spirit in their play, noting that it was clear in their encounter with Saudi Arabia that their physical conditions were not fit.
“I believe the Egyptian players have huge capabilities that were not exploited accurately,” Hassan said.
“We thought that the team had a strong defensive line, but in fact they were playing under constant pressure from the competitors. I hoped to benefit from high-skilled players, such as Mahmoud Shekabala, to improve our attacking line. Ramadan Sobhy was unfairly criticised in the tournament, although he played as a substitute in the three games and under difficult circumstances,” he added.
Hassan stressed that Cuper performed as much as he could, pointing out that Saudi Arabia and other teams had changed their coached before the tournament. “We should have put into consideration that our team qualified for the World Cup through beating Congo, Uganda, and Ghana, who were not in their best condition. We should have also respected the Egyptian fans’ views when they called for making some changes in the team,” he added.
Egyptian football currently lacks good planning, says Hisham Yakan
Hisham Yakan, defender of the national team in 1990 World Cup, told the Daily News Egypt that the EFA did not plan very well for the tournament, and everything came by chance. “I wished we could make use of this opportunity to make a great accomplishment for the Egyptian football. Unfortunately, we exited World Cup with sad memories,” he stated.
“I felt that the players were not properly prepared for the tournament. They seemed afraid in the three games, and the coach likely instructed them to stay in deep defence to avoid conceding goals, but we lost all our games,” Yakan said.
He pointed that everyone was complaining about the coach, but the EFA ignored the criticism, adding that they should have benefited from the experience of the football generation that played in the 1990 edition.
Egyptian team suffered from administrative disputes, says Ahmed Shobair
Ahmed Shobair, the Egyptian team’s goalkeeper in 1990 edition, said that the team lacked discipline. They made TV interviews in their hotel rooms and the EFA did not react to such violations. There was a clear administrative weakness in dealing with the players.
“The players should not stick to Cuper’s tactics after their statistics in defence and attack came so poor. The team also lacked a strong captain on the pitch, a role Hossam Ghaly used to play, but Cuper was annoyed of Ghaly’s strong character.”
Cuper is responsible for Egypt’s early exit, says Rabie Yassin
Rabie Yassin, Egyptian ex-player in 1990 World Cup, said that Cuper is entirely responsible for the team’s bad performance in the 2018 World Cup.
“Cuper’s choices after qualifying for the World Cup were not accurate, and he failed to develop the team’s play, so that they can confront different competitors,” Yassin said.
“Since Egypt’s participation in the 2017 African Cup of Nations in Gabon, where they lost 1-2 to Cameroon in the final game, Cuper maintained a fixed formation of 4-2-3-1 without any change in all games. The Egyptian team became very predictable,” he added.
Yassin pointed out that the Pharaohs played against Saudi Arabia in the same way they did against Uruguay, which showed that the coach was the only one to blame for the World Cup failure.