Egypt Is Back As An African Force
Published Monday, 11 June 2012 16:39 | Written by Amwal Al Ghad
Egypt announced their return as a force in the African game after a torrid two years to emerge as the form team in the early stages of the World Cup qualifiers.
After two successive weekends of group matches, Egypt are one of only two teams with a 100 percent record after they posted a dramatic away win in Guinea on Sunday. They now look odds-on favourites to go through to the final round of qualifying playoffs late next year.
It was also a personal triumph for American coach Bob Bradley, whose appointment to the Egypt job last year made for a surprising and unlikely partnership.
"The players tried throughout to dictate the result," Bradley told French television reporters after the match.
"Beating Guinea is very important on the road to the World Cup and will help confidence in the coming games. Egyptians can believe they are capable of qualifying for the World Cup."
It was the dramatic failure of the Pharaohs in the last World Cup campaign that led to an uncharacteristic slump and the end of a golden era in which they won an unprecedented three successive African Nations Cup titles from 2006 to 2010.
Egypt has won a record seven continental titles and a myriad of pan-African club trophies titles but found pursuit of World Cup qualification a lot more testing.
They finished their 2010 qualifying group tied with Algeria but were then upset in an acrimonious playoff, which the Algerians won 1-0 in November 2009.
It precipitated a dramatic slump in which Egypt collapsed inexplicably in the 2012 Nations Cup qualifiers, finishing last in their group and unable to go the tournament this year to defend their title.
To add to their woes, political upheaval and regular football violence, including February's stadium riot which killed 74 people in Port Said, has led to the suspension of club football in the country.
The only positive from that has been more time for Bradley to work with the players and a steady diet of friendlies and training camps designed to keep the players match fit.
Egypt were the first African country to compete at the World Cup in 1934 but their only other appearance came in Italy in 1990.
The other side with successive wins in the first two rounds of 2014 qualifying is Tunisia, but Group B wins over Equatorial Guinea and the Cape Verde Islands in the last fortnight have been more routine than revealing.
The 10 group winners advance to the final stage of African qualifying in October and November next year when they will play off to determine the continent's five representatives for Brazil in 2014.