World Cup remains priority for wounded Egypt after another CAN flop
In normal circumstances, a failure to reach the African Nations would have sent shockwaves across Egypt and prompted critics to sharpen their knives and pinpoint the culprits of the dismal outcome.
The story is totally different now.
Egypt stunningly missed out on a place in next year’s CAN in South Africa following a 4-3 aggregate defeat by minnows Central Africa, who sprang a huge surprise by depriving their fancied opponents of a place in the tournament for the second consecutive time.
The record CAN winners with seven titles under their belt, Egypt do not seem very determined to add to their tally as coach Bob Bradley, whose future is uncertain though, embarks on a rebuilding process in a bid to end the team’s lengthy World Cup drought.
Hassan Shehata was dismissed when Egypt failed to qualify for the 2012 CAN but Bradley may survive the fate of his otherwise highly-successful predecessor, given the Pharaohs’ fine start to their World Cup qualifying campaign.
They top Group G with maximum six points from two games after beating Mozambique 2-0 at home before claiming a last-gasp 3-2 win at Guinea, playing some smooth football in the process.
Egypt, who usually fail to replicate their continental success on the international stage, made the last of their two World Cup appearances in 1990 in Italy.
“My main task it to build a strong Egypt team. The priority is reaching the World Cup, the Nations Cup was a secondary objective,” American boss Bradley told reporters after Egypt drew 1-1 with Central Africa in Bangui following another lackluster display.
For that reason maybe many critics questioned Bradley’s tactical decisions against Central Africa but stopped short of calling for his departure, bearing in mind that Egypt’s bunch of talented footballers would need some time to gel under his guidance.
Lack of action
The former United States tactician, who guided his country to a remarkable place at the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup final, could be also given a respite due to the difficult circumstances he has had to endure since taking charge of the team in November last year.
Recurring crowd troubles in domestic football games during Egypt’s tumultuous transition to democracy regularly disrupted his preparations and February’s Port Said disaster, which led to the cancellation of the Egyptian Premier League, made life even more difficult for the bald-headed boss.
He had no option but to experiment with his squad during low-key friendly games, sometimes having to play without Ahly and Zamalek players due to African Champions League commitments or without foreign-based players such as Sunderland’s Ahmed Elmohamady and Mainz’s Mohamed Zidan.
He tried out new strategies and injected fresh blood into a team that has grown increasingly ageing under Shehata, introducing the likes of Ahmed Temsah, Mohamed Salah and goalkeeper Ahmed El-Shennawi, all of whom became key players for Egypt.
His work appeared to pay dividends when Egypt overcame Mozambique and Guinea.
He was particularly praised for Egypt’s performance in the latter game, where they put in a spirited display to come from behind and snatch a late win, a habit which was nowhere to be seen during Shehata’s area when the team used to struggle on the road.
But lack of domestic action eventually gave Egypt a reality check as they began what looked an easy ride in the Nations Cup qualifiers.
Looking jaded and out-of-sorts, Egypt’s players chased shadows in two legs against Central Africa, who repeatedly exposed the defensive frailties of their opponents to launch some fast-paced counter attacks and condemn the seven-time African champions to en embarrassing defeat.
“I took charge of the team amid very difficult circumstances, but we managed to top our group in the World Cup qualifiers despite football suspension in Egypt,” Bradley said.
“I’m not exonerating myself from responsibility, but our Nations Cup defeat is not the end of the road, especially that the instability in the country affects all aspects of life.”
Ministers in Prime Minister Hisham Qandil's cabinet following the recent reshuffle (new appointees are in italics): 1. Minister of Agriculture Ahmed Mahmoud Ali El-Gizawi2. Minister of Antiquities Ahmed Eissa3. Minister of Aviation Wael Maadawi4. Minister of Communication Atef Helmy5. Minister of Culture
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