World Cup Will Miss Record-Breaking Egyptian Champions
Egypt pulled off a historic football feat by beating Ghana 1-0 earlier today in the final of the 2010 African Cup of Nations to win the continent's top prize a record three times in a row, and a record seven times overall extending back to the first installment in 1957.
After winning the last two African Cup of Nations in 2006 in Egypt and again in 2008 in Ghana, Egypt entered this year's competition facing plenty of skepticism. Many doubted that any team could pull off three championship wins in a row, particularly when missing their best players: Mido, Amr Zaky, Mohamed Barakat, and Mohamed Abou Treika.
And yet, thanks to the depth of talent at the disposal of team manager, Hassan Shehata, Egypt not only managed to emerge champions yet again, but also dominated this year's competition in Angola from start to finish in every aspect of the game.
The Pharaohs had the best defensive and goalkeeping record conceding only two goals and the best offensive record scoring fifteen goals. They beat top African teams like Nigeria, Cameroon, and Algeria, all World Cup bound, by large scores (3-1, 3-1, and 4-0 respectively).
Egypt's win in Angola comes as a consolation price for failing to make the 2010 World Cup late last year. Egypt had come back from the bottom of its qualifying group only to narrowly miss out on qualifying in a hotly contested tie-breaker game against arch rivals Algeria in neutral Sudan. Egypt lost 1-0, breaking 80 million Egyptian hearts and disappointing Egypt football fans around the world.
Still considered one of Africa's top teams, whispers broke out that they were once great but are now an ailing team. They entered this year's African competition looking to silence nay-sayers, and more importantly desperate to restore national pride. And that they did, breaking records along the way.
Besides the most number of African Cup of Nations won in a row and most number won overall, Egypt also extended the record for an unbeaten run in the African Cup of Nations with 19 games that extend back to 2004.
Egypt captain Ahmed Hassan also broke the record for the most capped player in the world when he celebrated 170 caps in Egypt's quarterfinal game against Cameroon, taking the honor from former Egypt captain Hossam Hassan. Ahmed Hassan now sits comfortably as the world dean of players with 172 caps.
But restoring pride, and not breaking records, was Egypt's main motivation. Egypt's hefty defeat of Algeria in the semi-final game was therefore particularly sweet and caused fans back home to erupt in euphoric celebrations matched only by the win in the final match against Ghana.
"It's poetic justice, it sets the record straight," cooed Hatem Mekky, an Egypt football fan from Indiana, USA.
Egypt's unquestionable dominance of African football for the past seven years now, coupled with the mesmerizing attacking team play put on display in Angola, leaves neutral football critics around the world wondering what could have been had Egypt not missed out on the first World Cup to be played on African soil.
After all, Egypt's compelling form extends beyond Africa. In the 2009 Confederations Cup, Shehata's men pushed the Brazilian Galacticos to the limits only to lose 4-3 in extra time. More impressively, they managed to upset current World Champions Italy 1-0 in the same competition.
Egypt's absence from South Africa also means that some of Africa's most exciting players will be denied a chance to perform at the highest level before wide international audiences. This includes the 2010 African Cup of Nations best player, Egypt captain Ahmed Hassan; the tournament's best goalkeeper Essam El Hadary, and most of all Egypt's newest revelation and the tournament's lead scorer Mohamed Nagy (Geddo).
Geddo, Egypt's assured hero in Angola, managed to score five goals in six games of the competition despite never starting a game. He bagged the best goal of the tournament against Mozambique in the group stages, and was the one who broke Ghana in the dying minutes of a deadlocked game with a scintillating strike that he not only delivered, but helped set up.
Other exciting players that will be missed in South Africa include playmakers Mohamed Zidan and Abou Treika, and strikers Amr Zaki and Mido.
Geddo's consolation is that his stock is likely to be sky high with top European club offers sure to pour in.
As for the rest of Egypt, they will try to get over their World Cup woes by relishing their historic win in Angola, their vengeful thrashing of Algeria, and the accolade that they are yet again the uncontested kings of African football.
For this Egyptian fan, that won't be enough.
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