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In the lead
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 20 - 06 - 2019

Claiming the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) trophy a record seven times has made Egypt the most winning team in the history of the No 1 sports competition in the continent.
Egypt's record includes the inaugural Sudan 1957 edition and the Egypt 1959 edition which was held on home soil, as well as the 1986 edition. It then took the Egyptians 12 years to win the title in 1998. Eight years later, Egypt played host again to the 2006 edition in Cairo where they won its fifth title and from there, the Pharaohs cruised on to claim the following two trophies in Ghana 2008 and Angola in 2010. By winning three titles in a row, the Egyptians kept their trophy, where it currently sits at the Egyptian Football Association EFA headquarters in Gezira, Cairo
Egypt participated in the first Africa Cup of Nations tournament in 1957. In its first game, which was a semi-final, it faced Sudan, winning 2-1, enabling Egypt to play in its first final. In the final, it faced Ethiopia, in which Egypt won 4-0, thus making them AFCON champions for the first time and player Al-Diba as top scorer with five goals.
In its second AFCON participation in 1959, Egypt became champions again in the three-team tournament, defeating both Ethiopia and Sudan.
Its third appearance was in the four-team Ethiopia 1962 edition where Egypt beat Uganda 2-1 in the semi-finals but lost 4-2 to Ethiopia during extra time, thus losing its first AFCON final, with Ethiopia becoming champions and the first nation to win AFCON other than Egypt.
1957
Its fourth appearance came in Ghana 1963. Egypt beat Nigeria 6-3, but drew with Sudan 2-2. Egypt, as runners-up in Group B, beat Ethiopia 3-0 for third place.
Despite qualifying to the Tunisia 1965 edition, Egypt withdrew because of its diplomatic relationship with the hosts then. The Egyptians also withdrew from the 1968 edition in Ethiopia.
In AFCON 1970 in Sudan, Egypt defeated Guinea 4-1 in the opening match. Egypt then drew with Ghana 1-1. In its third game, Egypt beat Congo-Kinshasa 1-0. In the second round, Egypt lost 2-1 to Sudan to play-off and claim the third place with a 3-1 win over Côte d'Ivoire.
For the first time in its history, Egypt failed to qualify for the final stage of the AFCON and that was in Cameroon 1972. However, Egypt returned for the 1974 edition, which they hosted. In its first round stage, Egypt defeated Uganda 2-1, Zambia 3-1, and Côte d'Ivoire 2-0. However, they lost to Zaire 3-2 before beating Congo 4-0 for a third place finish.
In the 1976 Ethiopia edition, Egypt defeated Uganda 2-1, but drew against Uganda 1-1 and Ethiopia, also 1-1. Despite this, Egypt advanced to the final round, where they lost all its games to Morocco 2-1, 4-2 to Guinea, and 3-2 to Nigeria. It was the first AFCON tournament that Egypt lost three consecutive games.
1986
Egypt again failed to qualify for Ghana 1978. But, it reappeared for the Nigeria 1980 edition. They beat Côte d'Ivoire 2-1, and Tanzania 2-1 too, but lost to the host Nigeria 1-0. Egypt then lost the semifinals to Algeria 4-2 in penalties, after drawing 2-2 after extra time. The Egyptians settled for a fourth place finish after losing to Morocco in the play-off match.
In Libya 1982, Egypt withdrew from the qualifications. In Nigeria 1984, Egypt made its comeback. It defeated Cameroon 1-0, Côte d'Ivoire 2-1, but drew with Togo 0-0 to make it to the next round, the semi-finals, where it lost to Nigeria in penalties 8-7, after drawing 2-2. For the third place match, Egypt lost 3-1 to Algeria for a fourth place finish.
In the 1986 Egypt edition, though the Egyptians lost their opening to Senegal 1-0, they went on to win their two remaining games in the group stage, against Côte d'Ivoire 2-0 and 2-0 against Mozambique. In the semifinal, Egypt beat Morocco 1-0 to reach the final for the first time since the 1962 edition. In front of a full-house stadium in Cairo, the Pharaohs beat Cameroon, who had Roger Milla at the time, 5-4 in penalties, after drawing 0-0, thus becoming champions for the third time since winning it last in 1959.
1998
Morocco 1988 saw a deterioration of the defending champions Egypt as they lost 1-0 to Cameroon with a goal scored by the legendary Milla. Then, they drew 1-1 with Nigeria and defeated Kenya 3-0. Unfortunately, they didn't go past the first round.
In Algeria 1990, it got worse for the Egyptians as they lost all their group stage games, thus failing to obtain at least one point for the first time in their AFCON history. They lost 3-1 to Côte d'Ivoire, 1-0 to Nigeria, and 2-0 defeat to hosts Algeria.
In Senegal 1992, Egypt lost its opener to Zambia 1-0 and second to Nigeria, also 1-0. Egypt again failed to win a single point in the group stage for the second tournament in a row as they gave an early bye to the competition.
Tunisia 1994 saw some progress for the Pharaohs. They beat Gabon 4-0 and drew with Nigeria 0-0. Still, Egypt managed to qualify to the quarter-finals, being first place in Group B by goal difference. Unfortunately, they lost 1-0 to Mali and departed the tournament.
2006
In South Africa 1996, Egypt beat Angola 2-1 in its first match before losing 2-1 to Cameroon in the second, then beating the hosts South Africa 1-0. In the quarter-finals, Egypt lost 3-1 to Zambia and were eliminated from the tournament.
In the 1998 Burkina Faso edition, the Egyptians were remarkable. They beat Mozambique 2-0 and Zambia 4-0, before losing their third game to Morocco, 1-0. Despite this defeat, Egypt qualified for the quarter-finals, as runners-up of Group D, where they beat Côte d'Ivoire 5-4 in penalties after a 0-0 draw. In its semi-final, Egypt beat hosts Burkina Faso 2-0 to make its first appearance in the final since AFCON 1986, beating South Africa 2-0 for its fourth title.
The 2000 AFCON edition was hosted jointly by Ghana and Nigeria. The Pharaohs won all three first round matches: Zambia 2-0, Senegal 1-0 and Burkina Faso 4-2. As group leaders they advanced to the quarter-finals but lost to Tunisia 1-0 and left.
In Mali 2002, Egypt lost its opener to Senegal 1-0 but won the two remaining group stage games, 1-0 over Tunisia and 2-1 against Zambia. In the quarter-finals, Egypt lost 1-0 and another elimination from the tournament.
2008
The Tunisia 2004 saw another early ouster for the Egyptians as they were eliminated from the first round after beating Zimbabwe 2-1 and losing 2-1 to Algeria, and a scoreless draw with Cameroon.
In 2006 Egypt hosted the AFCON for the fourth time. Playing with Libya, Morocco, and Côte d'Ivoire, in the opening match, Egypt defeated Libya 3-0, then drew 0-0 with Morocco in the second and beat Côte d'Ivoire 3-1 in the third to reach the next round. In the quarter-finals, Egypt outclassed DR Congo 4-1 to reach the semi-finals and beat Senegal 2-1, to qualify for the final to face Côte d'Ivoire again in the tournament after playing against each other in the group stage. In the final, the two teams played to a scoreless draw which took them to extra time and then to the penalty shoot-out phase, where Egypt came out victorious, beating Côte d'Ivoire 4-2 and claiming its fifth title and third as hosts.
Ghana 2008 saw Egypt successfully defend its title after beating Cameroon 4-2, Libya 3-0, and drawing 1-1 with Zambia in the group stage. In the quarter-final, Egypt beat Angola 2-1, then Côte d'Ivoire 4-1 in the semis to reach the final, where the Pharaohs beat Cameroon 1-0 to win their sixth title and second in a row.
Angola 2010 confirmed Egypt's dominance of African football as it won its three group stage games, thus advancing to the quarter-final where it beat Cameroon 3-1 after extra time. In the semi-finals, it beat Algeria 4-0 and going to its third consecutive AFCON final. With a 1-0 win against Ghana, Egypt claimed its seventh title, and third consecutive cup, becoming the first nation to win three consecutive AFCON titles.
Surprisingly, the three-time defending champions Egypt failed to qualify for the following three editions: the 2012 Gabon and Equatorial Guinea, the South Africa 2013 and 2015 Equatorial Guinea because of political and security turmoil following the 2011 revolution.
In Gabon 2017, Egypt made an impressive comeback despite a scoreless draw 0-0 with Mali in its opening group stage match. It won 1-0 against Uganda and 2-0 against Ghana to make it to the quarter-finals, where it beat Morocco 1-0 for the first time in 31 years and set up a semi-final clash against Burkina Faso which Egypt won on penalty kicks for a final against Cameroon. Though the Egyptians took a 1-0 half-time lead, it was Cameroon that snatched the cup 2-1. It was the second time in its history that Egypt lost an AFCON final, and the first time to lose a final to its rival Cameroon.


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