Where are the Champions?!

The dominant force in the history of African Cup Of Nations, boasting the record of 7 time champions, is conspicuous in its absence from CAN 2012. Having won the last 3 African Nations titles in a row, a feat unmatched by any other side in the history of the tournament, the Egyptian National team failed to qualify outright for 2012, managing just 1 win from 6 games in the qualifiers. In this piece I'll try to delve into some of the reasons for their shocking absence:

Ageing Core Squad- The average age of the Egyptian Squad called up for their last match (a friendly against Brazil 1 month after their exit from the qualifiers) was 28.8 years. Peak age you might say? Slightly above average? Consider this though, out of a squad of 20, only 6 are below 25, and none of them are below 20. Of these youngest players on the team, 5 have a combined total of 12  caps between them. Signs that there is a wildly ageing core of the team, with a few young players introduced recently as an afterthought. A shame considering Egypt have many talented youth players who could be introduced into the 1st team and allowed to gain caps gradually, thus avoiding the oft repeated "golden generation" and then a period of drought. Boom and bust in football terms.

Too many locally based players– This is quite a common phenomenon in the Middle East. While the rest of the big guns in Africa have a core of players plying their trade in the top European teams, Middle Eastern teams seem to lack this. Recently Egypt specifically have made inroads with players such as Zidan and Mido making it to Europe, however this is still a largely unexplored pathway for local players. There are of course many reasons for this such as cultural & financial reasons, however to discuss and analyse the multitude of reasons would require a whole piece in itself (which I hopefully will write about in future).

Political Climate– Of course the events taking place in the Arab world and in this case Egypt have had an impact on results. There was division in the squad itself, with Shehata notably coming out in support of the ousted Mubarak amongst others; this inevitably caused tension within the camp. Local league and African Champions league games were also affected by the situation and no doubt had an impact, along with upheaval in the local league system which saw a rise in the teams participating in the top division from 16 to 19(as it currently stands).

Inept/Corrupt FA– The EFA had been involved with the Egyptian government prior to the revolution, and accusations of corruption have been levelled at the organisation which have continued post revolution. Suffice to say, malpractice and corruption are rife in Arab states in every sport, and certainly Egyptian football is no different.

Lack of Motivation– After the disappointment of not reaching the 2010 WC finals and this coupled with the ageing core of the squad, meant that many of the players may have lost some of the desire for this tournament. The qualifiers proved that Egypt’s qualification was not a foregone conclusion however. Maybe the thirst for a return to form will fuel a resurgence which will take them to Brazil in 2014.

There was no predetermined order for those points and equally there will no doubt be other reasons that I have not mentioned or missed entirely, which led to Egypt having an indifferent qualifying campaign and as a result their failure to make CAN 2012. One thing is for certain however, the Egyptian National Team no doubt will be back on the big stage once again, but for now, we will have to wait a while for the phoenix to rise from the ashes.

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