Egypt names Hossam El-Badry as new coach

The Egyptian Football Association (EFA) has named ex-Al-Ahly manager Hossam El-Badry coach of Egypt’s national team.

El-Badry was chosen from a pool that also included Hossam Hassan, Ehab Galal, Hassan Shehata, and Talaat Yousef after apparently acquiescing to the EFA’s demands.

PharaohsXI had El-Badry as the favorite to land the position more than a month ago, giving him a 30%, Galal 24%, Shehata 23%, Hassan 20%, and Yousef 3%.

Recent reports suggested either Galal or Hassan would get the job but both wanted to choose their own assistants, something the EFA refused.

El-Badry, known in part for rash resignations and public blame of players, was most recently Pyramids FC president.

He’s had three stints as Al-Ahly manager which included a CAF Champions League title in 2013. The team won the title the previous season as well, under Portuguese manager Manuel Jose. Two of those stints resulted in El-Badry resigning due to poor results, while he quit in 2013 because he said he “needs to work in a proper atmosphere to secure my achievements.”

That atmosphere was apparently Al-Ahli of Tripoli, where he survived a shooting following a disappointing league draw. He resigned a month later.

The 59-year-old also managed Sudan’s Al-Merrikh for a season before abruptly resigning.

“I know nothing about El-Badry’s resignation,” said former Egypt goalkeeper Essam El-Hadary – a player for Al-Merrikh at the time – about the resignation. “I was surprised by the decision,” he added.

El-Badry’s lone experience at the international level was a disappointing tenure as Egypt’s U23 national team coach. Under his guidance, Egypt crashed out of the group stage of the 2015 U23 Africa Cup of Nations, finishing in last place in what doubled as qualifiers for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

El-Badry will now be asked to guide Egypt to the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

Egypt’s first qualifier is set for March while the Pharaohs’ opponents have yet to be determined.

Former Egypt manager says people not sold on coaching candidates, suggests Eastern European

Former Egypt and Ismaily manager Mohsen Saleh says the delay in announcing a new Egypt manager suggests there are reservations regarding the candidates.

Egypt’s Football Association (EFA) initially planned to name a new coach a month ago, but the team is still without a successor to Javier Aguirre, who was fired after the Pharaohs’ Round of 16 elimination from the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in July.

“The delay in announcing who will be the new Egyptian national team manager to this point means that there are reservations with the nominated names, and fear that they will not be able to achieve the desired goals as well as fear over the public and media reaction to that,” said Saleh, who coached Egypt at AFCON 2004 in Tunisia.

“Since [the EFA] is not giving the green light [to one of the candidates], searching for an Eastern European coach would suit us best, like a Czech, Serb, or Croat,” he added.

The EFA had been negotiating with an Eastern European – specifically Bosnian Vahid Halilhodžić – before failing to meet his financial demands and settling for Aguirre.

Halilhodžić became available again when Aguirre was fired, but the Moroccan Football Federation maneuvered quickly to secure his services.

The EFA previously announced that the Pharaohs’ next manager would be Egyptian; naming Hossam Hasasn, Talaat Yousef, Hossam El-Badry, Ehab Galal, and Hassan Shehata as final candidates.

El-Badry, former Ahly manager, was thought to be the favorite before a public backlash apparently quelled interest.

Several reports suggested Hassan Shehata would be the choice, leading some to believe that the EFA leaked the information to gauge public reaction.

The EFA said a new coach would be named “in one week” three separate times over the past month.

Qualifying for the 2022 FIFA World Cup is underway in Africa, with Egypt not playing its first match until the next round in March.

Hosts suffer [not so] shocking AFCON elimination

Egypt’s hopes for an eighth Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) title were dashed on Saturday, losing to South Africa 1-0 in the round of 16 after a string of poor performances.

The hosts controlled the pace for much of the match, but failed to capitalize on Mahmoud Trezeguet’s two point-blank range opportunities.

Goalkeeper Mohamed El-Shenawy came up with a few saves of his own to keep the match scoreless.

Following a few head-scratching substitutions, the Bafana Bafana took advantage of the shape and balance Egypt lost to score the match’s lone goal.

It is Egypt’s earliest AFCON exit since 2004, not including three editions they failed to qualify for.

The loss could mean the end of manager Javier Aguirre’s disappointing spell in charge, with the Pharaohs seeming to steadily regress during his 12-match reign.

South Africa, meanwhile, advances to take on Nigeria in the quarterfinal.

Should Egypt dismiss Aguirre, they could be interested in Morocco manager Herve Renard, with whom Egypt failed to close a deal with multiple times in the past eight years.

Renard has hinted at his time with the Atlas Lions coming to a close, though he officially remains their manager.

AFCON Preview: Pharaohs Seek Next Dynasty

Egypt national team

It feels like only yesterday Egypt’s national team was living up to its nickname, presiding over a dynasty of three successive Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) titles. However so much has happened in the North African nation since then that the Pharaohs’ 2006-2010 three-peat feels as ancient as their namesake.

Revolution and retirement

On the field, Egypt endured a full changing-of-the-guard with the retirements of stalwarts like Ahmed Hassan, Mohamed Aboutrika, Wael Gomaa, Emad Motab, Hosny Abd Rabo, and more recently Essam El-Hadary.

Other championship contributors like Mohamed Zidan, Hossam Ghaly, Mohamed Shawky, Hany Said, Abdel-Zaher El-Sakka, Mido, Amr Zaki, and Sayed Moawwad have hung-up their boots as well.

Off the field, revolution caused years of instability and turmoil, resulting in league stoppages, crowd bans, and blows to the national team’s form and morale.

Four heads of state later, and despite violence and instability surrounding Egypt’s borders, political and economic conditions began to stabilize — and with it — Egyptian football as well.

Retooling and resurgence

With inexperienced personnel, a defense in utter shambles, and budgetary constraints, officials realized the team had to re-learn how to walk before it could run again.

Enter Héctor Raúl Cúper, the stubborn but disciplined Argentine that ate, drank, and slept defense.

His style left fans and pundits on edge, biting their nails with every short, long, and crossed ball the team purposely ceded.

Yet, it worked. Kinda.

The team that went from dominating possession, scoring chances and scoreboards at AFCON for years to the train wreck that couldn’t keep a cleansheet or even quality for AFCON to save its life, suddenly went all the way to the 2017 AFCON final having conceded just one solitary goal.

Despite losing the final late, Egypt rode its new aesthetically-challenged style all the way to a first FIFA World Cup finals appearance since 1990.

But Cúper ’s defensive style, however warranted it may have been at the time, had run its course. Egypt went nine matches without a win to end his tenure. The team’s approach was tolerated only because it was working. Barely. As soon as it wasn’t anymore, fans could no-longer stomach both ugly and ineffective football.

Building on success

After a coaching search that saw the team lose-out on the likes of Carlos Queiroz and Vahid Halilhodžić, the Egyptian Football Association (EFA) settled on Mexican tactician Javier Aguirre.

The EFA made no secret of its desire to appease disgruntled fans by returning to a more trademark, attack-minded approach.

Aguirre and his staff wasted no time to that end, going full throttle in their first official match in charge, a 6-0 drubbing of Niger in a qualifier for the upcoming AFCON, before Egypt was named emergency host.

Concerns

However, all-out attack doesn’t come without its tradeoffs. Egypt has conceded five goals in the five matches since beating Niger, hinting at a possible over-correction of the team’s ultra-defense approach under Cúper.

The team has made a handful of defensive blunders that it wasn’t under the previous administration. In fairness, the staff fielded a full squad just once in that span, but that was against its toughest opponent — Tunisia — against which they conceded twice.

While a riskier, all-out attack may work at AFCON — especially on home soil — history shows it is less effective in World Cup qualifying than a consistent, potent defense. But, I suppose we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. AFCON will undoubtedly double as an audition for the future of Aguirre and his staff, 2022 World Cup qualifiers included.

Options

Aguirre has fielded two distinct systems in his six matches in charge. My personal favorite was the 3-6-1/3-4-3 the team started the match against Niger with, featuring Baher Elmohamady and Ahmed Hegazy as centerbacks, Aly Ghazal playing a sweeper/libero role, Mohamed ElNeny and Tarek Hamed manning the middle, Ayman Ashraf and Ahmed Elmohamady deployed as wingbacks, and the trio of Mohamed Salah, Mahmoud Trezeguet, and Ahmed Hassan ‘Kouka’ up front.

It appeared to offer the best balance between defense and attack, while controlling possession, pace, and flow.

However, Aguirre seems to have favored a more traditional 4-5-1 since. The approach offers a little less defensively but adds a playmaker to the attacking trio. But does this maximize the potential of the Pharaohs’ personnel? Egypt hasn’t had an elite playmaker since Aboutrika, and before him the team enjoyed the talents of Hazem Emam and Abdel-Sattar Sabry. While Abdalla El-Said and Walid Soliman — two players in the current squad that can man the number 10 role — are no slouches, they’re also not their predecessors.

Considering the two setups Aguirre has played in, here’s the formation and lineup we expect.

And here’s the one we prefer, the alternate setup the team fielded in the 6-0 win over Niger.

Egypt will succeed if…

…the defensive blunders we’ve seen in the past several matches don’t rear their ugly heads. Egypt will have no problem creating enough scoring opportunities to win matches with the personnel and approach they’ll deploy. But as mentioned, it has thus far come at the cost of errors that better teams will pounce on. There is a science and technique to effective defending, and it requires the same tactical complexity that any well-drilled attack would. We have not yet seen that in the Aguirre era, but the sample size is too small to judge. If he’s relying on goals to make-up for any defensive lapses, he may just get away with it at AFCON, but he won’t during the physically and mentally-exhausting grind of World Cup qualifying.

Egypt will fail if…

The defense stinks. Sounds obvious given what I just spouted about what it takes for them to succeed, but that’s the reality. Egypt can win AFCON 2019 if defending is managed well and organized. Conversely, if the back-line is left to its own devices, there’s a good chance Egypt will not be able to make up for it with goals of its own despite what will be a very attack-minded approach.

Keep an eye on…

…Ahmed Hassan ‘Kouka.’ It’s a name you know, but a selection that may surprise you. We all know that Mohamed Salah is the best and most important player in the squad, and that Mahmoud Trezeguet has been the hipster’s choice as a darkhorse for at least two tournaments running.

But Kouka — along with every other striker that played for Cúper — was given the unfair rap of being ineffective at their job. What many fans failed to consider is how brutal Cúper system is for strikers. Full-backs were rarely allowed to advance forward and help with crosses into the box and both defensive midfielders were instructed to stay near the center stripe. Forwards were left to their own devices, asked to be both creator and finisher if the ball wasn’t already at a winger’s feet.

AFCON 2019 will be Kouka’s best-ever opportunity to shine in an Egypt shirt. Aguirre’s approach should provide him with plenty of support, freeing him up to do the job strikers were born for; score.

If I had to guess, he’s going to take advantage. But will the team take advantage of their opportunity to win an eighth AFCON title on home soil?

This is the deepest AFCON in history, and not because it’s the first to feature 24 teams. Parity in African football is at an all-time high, with no less than half-a-dozen legitimate favorites to lift the trophy. However, if past AFCON iterations in Egypt are any indication, don’t bet against a new Pharaohs dynasty emerging from the throes of the Sahara.

Egypt names preliminary AFCON 2019 squad

2019 AFCON

Egypt has named a preliminary 25-man squad for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) to be held next month on home soil.

Despite announcing his retirement from international football earlier this year, Ahly playmaker Walid Soliman was included in manager Javier Aguirre’s list.

Also named in the same position was Pyramids FC’s Abdalla El-Said, a favorite of former Pharaohs coach Héctor Cúper.

Egyptian Premier League top-scorer Ahmed Aly was also included, in a squad that will be without prominent wingers Ramadan Sobhy and Mahmoud Kahraba of Cairo giants Ahly and Zamalek respectively.

“We called-up two extra players in case of any injuries during the comping period,” said Egypt assistant coach Hany Ramzy.

He added that the team will submit its final 23-man roster on June 11.

The Pharaohs will start an AFCON training camp on June 6, followed by friendlies against Tanzania on June 13 and Guinea on June 16. Both matches will be at Alexandria’s Borg El-Arab Stadium.

Egypt will host African football’s showpiece event for the first time since 2006, with the continent’s best squaring off from June 21 to July 19.

Full squad

Goalkeepers: Mohamed El-Shenawy (Ahly), Mahmoud Gennesh (Zamalek), Mohamed Abou-Gabal (Smouha), Ahmed El-Shenawy (Pyramids FC)

Defenders: Ahmed Elmohamady (Aston Villa, ENG), Ahmed Hegazi (West Bromwich Albion, ENG), Ali Ghazal (Feirense, POR), Omar Gaber (Pyramids FC), Ayman Ahsraf (Ahly), Mahmoud Hamdy (Zamalek), Baher Elmohamady (Ismaily), Ahmed Ayman Mansour (Pyramids FC), Mahmoud Alaa (Zamalek), Ahmed Aboul-Fotouh (Smouha)

Midfielders: Mohamed ElNeny (Arsenal, ENG), Walid Soliman (Ahly), Abdalla El-Said (Pyramids FC), Tarek Hamed (Zamalek), Amr Warda (Atromitos), Nabil Emad (Pyramids FC), Mahmoud Trezeguet (Kasımpaşa, TUR)

Forwards: Mohamed Salah (Liverpool, ENG), Ahmed Aly (Arab Contractors), Marwan Mohsen (Ahly), Ahmed Hassan Kouka (Olympiacos, GRE)

AFCON ticket prices revealed, including 2-matches-for-1

2019 AFCON

Egyptian and African football authorities have revealed ticket prices and seating tiers for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON).

Admission into tournament matches will range from EGP 100 ($6) to EGP 2,500 ($146).

Ticket prices for matches that do not involve Egypt’s national team will be available at three seating tiers: EGP 100 ($6), EGP 300 ($17), and EGP 500 ($29) .

Prices for Egypt matches will be sold in four seating tiers: EGP 200 ($12), EGP 400 ($23), EGP 600 ($35), and EGP 2,500 ($146).

According to AFCON 2019 ticket sub-committee head Amr El-Bortoqali, each ticket will be valid for two matches on the same day in the same stadium.

Tickets are expected to go on sale by mid-May. Authorities had previously hinted at late-April sales.

The first-ever 24-nation AFCON kicks off June 21.

Note: Egyptian-pound-to-US-dollar exchange rates are approximate and subject to vary.

Electronic ticket sale schedule set for AFCON

Tickets for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) will be available to purchase online by the middle of this month, according to officials.

Organizing committee member Mohamed Fadl told Egyptian radio that the first phase of online ticket sales will take place between April 15 and April 20.

That first phase will include matches one through 37, while a second stage of sales will include tickets for matches 38 through 52.

“The ticket prices will suit the huge budget of the tournament, the third biggest around the world. We are also working hard to fight the black market by selling the tickets online,” Fadl said.

No further logistical details were given.

Egypt was named emergency AFCON host after original host Cameroon was deemed unready to handle the increase from 16 teams to 24.

The Pharaohs are gunning for their eighth AFCON title, having last won Africa’s showpiece football event in 2010.

Egypt AFCON Mock Squad 1.0

Egypt squad

With less than three months remaining until the kick-off of Africa’s showpiece football festival in Egypt, we take our first guess at what the host nation’s squad may look like, including how the starting XI could deploy.

Three months can be an eternity in football. Form rises and dips, and injuries are an inevitable part of the game. Thus, our list can and likely will change in subsequent editions.

To clarify, this is who we think manager Javier Aguirre may call up for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), not necessarily the squad we’d like to see.

Without further ado, onto our first Egypt AFCON mock 23.

Goalkeepers

Mohamed El-Shenawy (Ahly), Ahmed El-Shenawy (Pyramids), Mahmoud Gennesh (Zamalek)

This line of thinking is pretty straight-forward. Mohamed El-Shenawy emerged as Essam El-Hadary’s successor before and during last summer’s World Cup. He’ll be backed-up by starters on two other of Egypt’s top clubs, and have already earned previous call-ups by Aguirre.

Defenders

Ahmed Hegazy (West Brom, ENG), Ali Gabr (Pyramids), Baher Elmohamady (Ismaily), Mahmoud El-Wensh (Zamalek), Ayman Ashraf, Mohamed Hany (Ahly), Ahmed Elmohamady (Aston Villa, ENG), Karim Hafez (Kasımpaşa, TUR)

Hegazy, Baher Elmohamady, and Gabr seem to be clear favorites of Aguirre’s at centerback. There should be a second reserve spot open and it’s anyone’s guess as to who will fill it. It could be El-Wensh, as we currently have, or perhaps his Zamalek teammate Mahmoud Alaa.

Alaa had a rough day during Egypt’s AFCON qualifying finale in Niger, with a mistake at the back and an injury that forced him out in the second half. He probably deserves another shot, but until then we’re going with El-Wensh to grab the final spot in central defense. Another unlikely name to keep an eye on is New York Red Bulls centerback Amro Tarek.

Ashraf and Ahmed Elmohamady appear to have cemented their roles at fullback/wing-back. Who will play behind them is less certain.

Aguirre seems to be grooming Hany for the right side, having given the Al Ahly youngster plenty of minutes in the recent matches against Niger and Nigeria. Karim Hafez, meanwhile, may have played himself into the opposite reserve spot after what was perhaps his best display in an Egypt shirt against Niger.

Midfielders

Aly Ghazal (CD Feirense, POR), Mohamed ElNeny (Arsenal, ENG), Tarek Hamed (Zamalek), Hussein El-Shahat (Ahly), Islam Gaber (Dakhleya), Amr Warda (Atromitos, GRE), Mahmoud Trezeguet (Kasımpaşa, GRE), Nabil Emad (Pyramids, EGY)

There are at least three spots open in the middle, with Ghazal, ElNeny, Hamed, Warda, and Trezeguet looking to be the only sure bets. Who fills these openings will be determined in the coming months, but if we had to guess right now, Gaber and Emad impressed just enough in the ample minutes they were given over the international break.

Gaber showed quickness and an ability to shoot with power and accuracy from distance, something the rest of the squad couldn’t seem to muster in the stifling heat and humidity of Niger and Nigeria. He still has plenty to work on, granted.

Emad, who many in Egypt know as “Dunga,” was not overly impressive, but did his job reliably and showed impressive stamina in an oppressive climate. He was not intimidated by the international game and may have fared even better if he was surrounded by Egypt’s more regular personnel.

Forwards

Salah Mohsen, Marwan Mohsen (Ahly), Mohamed Salah (Liverpool), Kouka (Olympiacos, GRE)

Rounding out our first projected list of 23 are some consensus choices up-front. Mohamed Salah needs no introduction, and Egypt’s lack of classic center-forwards means Kouka and Marwan Mohsen get the nod almost by default.

Salah Mohsen, who already seems to be a regular fixture for Aguirre, should also make the squad. Though he likely won’t start, the promising 20-year-old is versatile enough to play on the wings or in the middle and is sure to benefit from his first-ever international tournament.

Starting XI

With our first mock squad now established, here’s how we currently expect it to be deployed.

Aguirre has favored two distinct setups in his five matches at Egypt’s helm thus far: A 3-6-1/3-4-3 that melds together familiar Egypt systems of the 1990s and 2000s and the more modern utilization of wing-forwards, and a more basic 4-5-1.

The team has appeared a bit more balanced in the former, so I’d expect to see that in June, especially against tougher opposition. Though defense has looked shaky at times in both formations, it has been especially porous in the 4-5-1.

Ghazal has looked right at home in the libero role, ascending and descending between central defense and defensive midfield. He offers the ability to launch attacks from the back and the security of an extra central defender that’s harder to come by in Aguirre’s 4-5-1.

This is the key difference between the two setups, in addition to allowing the left and right defenders to act more as wingbacks than traditional fullbacks, advancing higher up the pitch while some combination of ElNeny, Hamed, and Ghazal cover the empty spaces behind them.

We’ll be issuing updates to our 23-man squad as needed. In the meantime, let’s hope for a healthy list of options from which Aguirre and his staff can choose come June.

Egypt, Puma ink new kit deal

puma-egypt

The Egyptian Football Association (EFA) has signed a new kit supply deal with German apparel brand Puma.

It is officially a “multi-year deal” according to Puma, and is believed to specifically last through the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

The agreement takes effect immediately, as Puma is set to replace previous Egypt kit supplier Adidas.

“Egypt has an amazing track record and we are very excited to once again supply them with our products,” said Johan Adamson, Puma’s Director of Marketing and Sports Licensing.

The agreement encompasses Egypt’s men’s, women’s, and youth national teams.

The EFA says today’s announcement is the culmination of negotiations that began as soon as the previous contract with Adidas ended.

Egypt’s long relationship with Puma facilitated negotiations for both sides, according to the EFA.

“We hope that Puma and the Pharaohs can continue where they left off, by taking the title in the next Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in 2019,” Adamson added.

EFA President Hany Abourida was content with the new deal as well, saying, “it is great to be back with the big cat in 2019. We share many happy and successful memories together and hope we will hit the ground running in what will be a very important year for Egyptian football.”

Aside from the Pharaohs’ historic AFCON threepeat of 2006-2010, Puma supplied Egypt’s kits at various points throughout the 1970s, 80s, 90s, and early 2000s.

Puma had previously canceled its contract with Egypt following the decline of the national team that coincided with a national uprising in 2011.

Puma renewed its interest in Egypt following its qualification to the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.

Interest was mutual, as the EFA absorbed consternation from fans over what many say were generic efforts by previous kit supplier Adidas.

The EFA defended its position, citing herculean efforts just to land a popular kit supplier following domestic football upheaval, crowd bans, and the Pharaohs missing out on three successive Africa Cup of Nations finals.

The Pharaohs are expected to receive new kits immediately, but may get a customized redesign in time for this year’s AFCON finals in June.

Egypt top Tunisia in penultimate AFCON qualifier with late Salah winner

Egypt vs. eSwatini

It looked as though Egypt and Tunisia would share the spoils, but some individual brilliance from Liverpool star Mohamed Salah – along with help from Al Ahly youngster Salah Mohsen – gave the Pharaohs a thrilling 3-2 win over their North African rivals in the penultimate 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier for each team.

The result sends Egypt to the summit of Group J, though both teams had already qualified for next summer’s finals in Cameroon.

Naim Sliti gave Tunisia the lead after the Egyptian defense was caught in no man’s land, resulting in a one-on-one with Pharaohs goalkeeper Mohamed El-Shenawy and an easy finish for Sliti.

Egypt continued it’s attack-minded approach and were awarded with an equalizer as Mahmoud Trezeguet’s effort took a deflection on its way into the net.

Egypt then took the lead in the second half, as defender Baher Elmohamady headed home Amr Warda’s free-kick cross unmarked from close range.

But it was Sliti to the rescue for Tunisia again, taking advantage of an unmanned, uncoordinated Egyptian defense to equalize for the guests.

Just as the match seemed destined for a draw, Salah combined with 20-year-old starlet Mohsen for a one-two and a brilliant, match-winning chip.

Though the contest was largely academic, it was a physical and contentious one, with some entertaining play interrupted by the occasional skirmish.

Egypt manager Javier Aguirre may have to find a more balanced approach, as Egypt seems to have over-corrected its stiflingly defensive scheme under former manager Hector Cuper with the opposite extreme, leaving the defense perpetually vulnerable.

Egypt closes out its qualifying campaign in Niger while Tunisia hosts eSwatini.