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From bad to terrible
Published in Ahram Online on 19 - 11 - 2019

The senior Egyptian national football team started their Africa Cup of Nations qualifying campaign under new coach Hossam Al-Badri and what a start it was. Disastrous to say the least. Being paired in a group that included Kenya, Togo and Comoros it was thought it would be a straightforward qualification to the Africa Cup of Nations to be held in Cameroon in 2021. It was even fair to say that most Egyptian fans believed Egypt could win every single game in the group, home and away, given the mediocrity of the opponents. However, two games into the qualifying campaign and Egypt lie third in the group after shockingly drawing the first two games.
First, Egypt faced Kenya in Cairo and somehow drew 1-1 after the visitors scored a second half equaliser to cancel Kahraba's lucky opener in the dying seconds of the first half. The result was obviously shocking, but the performance was even more appalling to the extent that Egypt should be happy with the point. If not for some fine goalkeeping by Ahmed Al-Shinnawi and his heroics Egypt would have easily lost the game against a very confident Kenya.
A combined mistake by Kenya's defender Onyango and his goalkeeper Ouma coupled with the bad state of the pitch saw Kahraba slot home the ball into an empty net in the 43rd minute to score Egypt's first goal in the qualifying campaign despite a disgraceful first half performance that witnessed at least three clear cut chances for Kenya and zero for Egypt.
The Kenyan side started the second half well and attacked aggressively looking for an equaliser which made Al-Badri bring in Zizou and Al-Nenni, replacing Hussein Al-Shahat and Afsha to have more control in the middle of the park where. However, it was a mistake by Al-Nenni that gifted the visitors the equaliser and gave Olunga the chance to equalise for his side in the 67th minute.
Egypt's players looked shell-shocked for the remainder of the game.
The absence of the injured Mohamed Salah surely affected Egypt's game but there can be no excuses for how shocking the performance was by almost every single player apart from Al-Shinnawi. One can't really disagree after seeing how the visitors made fools of the players throughout the 90 minutes.
Egypt's second game was against Comoros away from home and even though Egypt was terrible in the first game, it still expected to defeat Comoros easily and by a comfortable score line. But it turned out to be a case of from bad to worse for Al-Badri and his embarrassment of players as the game ended scoreless.
Al-Badri made some changes to his side. Mohamed Hani started in place of Fathi, Ayman Ashraf in place of Abdullah Gomaa and Zizou in place of Al-Shahat. But once again the performance was similar to the one against Kenya if not worse and supposedly against a significantly weaker side.
Kahraba hit the bar inside the first 10 minutes from close range and that was Egypt's only real chance throughout the whole game while the ordinary home side missed at least four real chances as Al-Shinnawi played a key role in keeping the score goalless.
The truth is that Egypt did not deserve to win or draw for the second time in four days as the opponents were better. As the referee blew the final whistle, all the Comoros fans in the stadium ran onto the field to celebrate their famous draw against Africa's most decorated nation in history. They celebrated the draw as if they had won the World Cup which again shows the decline of Egypt's national side.
The lack of creativity, inability to defend properly against mediocre sides, a lost midfield and a clueless coaching staff are the takeaways of the two games against Kenya and Comoros. Even the return of Salah and Al-Said won't be enough for Egypt to becoming an African force once again.
Thankfully, Togo and Kenya drew 1-1 in Kenya which means that Comoros tops the group with four points while Egypt and Kenya have two points. Togo is bottom of the group with one point.
Let's see how Al-Badri and his players will react to their latest setbacks in upcoming games.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 21 November, 2019 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.

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