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Great Expectations

By Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (February 26th 2023)

Big Hopes

Africa has produced several football greats – Egypt has had more than its fair share. But any hopes that the current batch of Under-20 players would add to that illustrious list were brutally crushed last night with a 4-0 thrashing by Sénégal.

Needing a win to stand any chance of progressing to the knockout phase of the Under-20 Africa Cup of Nations (U-20 AFCON), Egyptian football awoke to a crisis – a very, very rude awakening inflicted courtesy of the Pharaohs’ recent bogey team, although that applies for most if not all of Africa and at most levels of football these days.

Sénégal’s coach, Malick Daf, pulled no punches. Nor was he obliged to. He had just seen his team qualify for the quarter-final in style. Egypt, the hosts, needed a win to avoid the nasty reckoning of failing to make it out of their group. A tournament, already suffering from very sparse attendance, would face catastrophe if they were eliminated as Egyptians already had little interest in the competition before the disaster of last night.

Forlorn Hope to Abject Humiliation

Drawing 0-0 at half time, Egypt’s coach, Mahmoud Gaber, witnessed a second-half annihilation that poses serious questions for the Pharaohs and the Egyptian Football Association. Sénégal did not just beat Egypt, they demolished the hosts in just 45 minutes, thrashing the aspiring Pharaohs 4-0 – the added time was nigh on cruel, as there was no possibility of a come-back.

Daf proudly listed players he was already prepared to recommend to the Terranga Lions’ tactician and first man to lead Sénégal to AFCON glory, Aliou Cissé. Not surprisingly, the list included the hat-trick hero and Man of the Match, Pape Demba Diop.

The Cycle Ends

Egypt’s current Under-20 team reached its peak by winning the recent Arab Cup. That raised expectations that this team could achieve its target of qualifying for this year’s World Cup in Indonesia.

Any post-mortem will be brutal. The results are not lying – Egypt was found wanting. No amount of window dressing can hide that fact, however hard it is to digest. Failing to achieve the desired target is one thing – but utter capitulation and humiliation is beyond the pale. Egypt’s performance was utterly abysmal. Played three – lost two and drawn one. Goals conceded, 5, goals scored zero – exactly the same record as a poor Mozambique team.

Egypt depart this U-20 AFCON, having shared the wooden spoon and having suffered the humiliation of being walloped 4-0. The only consolation is there will be a new cycle starting now and it is unlikely to get worse.

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