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A look ahead to the future of the Egyptian National Team
With Egypt’s World Cup 2014 dream all but over, the last thing on the minds of many Egyptians now is football. Life goes on though, and so does football. With Egypt needing a five-goal win next month in Cairo, we can all but forget about this long shot of a miracle and begin to focus on the future.
With the news of Mohamed Abou-Treika’s and Wael Gomaa’s retirements, it is obvious that this imminent World Cup failure will finally bring along a change of generation and exodus of aging players that ‘s long overdue for some. Although the retirement of our veteran players should not be seen as a thoroughly beneficial occurrence, we can take some positives out of it. The team will surely miss the leadership of players like Gomaa, Abou-Treika, and even though he has been out of the fold for a while, El Hadary. However, no one can deny that the time has come to inject some new blood into the team and build around younger starters like Mohamed Salah and Mohamed El-Nenny. Believe it or not, we do have promise.
Let’s look at the starting lineup used vs. Ghana and study the ages of the players.
Sherif Ekramy (30)
Wael Gomaa (38)
Mohamed Naguib (30)
Shedid Kenawy (28)
Ahmed Fathi (28)
Hossam Ghaly (31)
Hossam Ashour (27)
Mohamed El-Nenny (21)
Mohamed Salah (21)
Mohamed Abou-Treika (34)
Walid Soliman (28)
Sherif Ekramy has been our most reliable goalkeeper recently, and he will likely remain the starting goalkeeper. Abdel-Wahed El-Sayed likely will not be in the national team picture and may subsequently retire from international football. Ahmed El-Shennawy will return to Al-Masry now that his loan to Zamalek has ended and with the anticipated retirement of Abdel-Wahed, he figures to play second choice to Ekramy with a chance to impress, improve, and eventually replace him. A lot of people are concerned with our goalkeeping options, but Sherif has really grown up lately and I feel safe with him. He may not be an Essam El-Hadary…but who is? Ekramy is the safest bet until the complete maturation of Shennawy, and will probably be the goalkeeper for the next World Cup qualification attempt/heartbreak.
Clearly, our defense is the biggest glaring point (past, present, and future). With Wael Gomaa retiring and our other starting centre-back, Mohamed Naguib, aging in front of our eyes, we need to inject some new blood into the backline. Surely, with the return of a hopefully healthy Ahmed Hegazy (we have reason for caution, however, two ACL injuries in a year is not a good sign), and with the steady emergence and maturation of Rami Rabia of Al-Ahly, we do have some promise.
Ahmed Fathi is still 28, but playing like he has no plans of slowing down. I see him still playing and playing well for our next World Cup qualification attempt for Russia 2018.
Shedid Kenawy, although not an extraordinarily great player, is arguably our best left back and will probably remain on the team as long as he does not lose his starting spot at Al-Ahly to the older, slower, less attacking Sayed Moawad.
From this group, I expect Wael Gomaa to retire from football altogether by the end of the year. If not, he will definitely retire from international football once Egypt’s World Cup qualifying elimination becomes official. However, with the relative experience of the remaining defenders on the squad, I advocate for keeping him around, in a mentor/player-coach type of role. Although we all can agree that he is not the same Wael Gomaa of 5-7 years ago, he has not lost his football knowledge and knowledge of the centre-back position that can be taught to players like Rami Rabia and Ahmed Hegazy.
Mohamed Naguib had an absolute stinker of a game against Ghana, shockingly. As an Al-Ahly fan, I watch him week in and week out and have always been a fan of his. Despite his steady aging, I expect him to stay in the national team picture and continue being in the fold for a starting position in the near future, at least until some of our younger players emerge and get the needed experience to lead Egypt to relevance again. I believe Naguib and Wael Gomaa can pass their knowledge on to the younger players.
So, from the starting backline that embarrassed themselves against Ghana, I see Wael Gomaa definitely retiring from international football in the near future and hopefully sticking around as some sort of mentor, Ahmed Fathi remaining the starting right back for a while, Shedid Kenawy sticking around in the fold until a better option comes along (will be addressed later in this article), and Mohamed Naguib sticking around as a usually reliable backup to Ahmed Hegazy and Rami Rabia.
Probably just as heartbreaking as the loss to Ghana is the news that Mohamed Abou-Treika is finally hanging up his boots by the end of the year. Abou-Treika has announced his retirements a couple times before, but this time it seems like there is no convincing him – The Magician is retiring. As the heart and soul of the national team, his absence will surely be missed, and while there are no players on the team currently of Treika’s caliber, I do feel like there are players that can adequately cover for him.
The midfield of Egypt is easily our strong suit, with many players vying for few positions. While we lack an abundance of defenders and strikers, we seem to always have a few more talented midfield players impressing every year.
In my opinion, the most obvious player to replace Mohamed Abou-Treika as the playmaker of the team in central midfield is Walid Soliman, who has had a great year with Al-Ahly and has saved them in the Champions League on a few occasions with spectacular displays and goals. He is 28, but if he can stay healthy and keep away from those nagging knee injuries he has been suffering from as late, he can be the Abou-Treika-like playmaker that can feed Mohamed Salah just as Abou-Treika has done for the last two years. He will be 33 by next World Cup, but if he can perform as Abou-Treika has done at 34, I can safely assume we will all be happy.
Hossam Ghaly is now 31, and will be 35/36 at the next World Cup. He is one player I do not want to see retiring, and I do not believe he will be one of the veteran players to officially announce his retirement. He may not have the legs to be a valuable addition in the midfield anymore, but his stint as a sweeper and Al-Ahly and now at Lierse of Belgium has been, quite honestly, impressive. I would like to see him stay on the national team for the next World Cup qualifiers as part of a 3-man backline along with Rami Rabia and Ahmed Hegazy, with Ghaly serving the Wael Gomaa role of experience and knowledge (even though he may not always play with this knowledge)
Hossam Ashour may not be the most talented midfielder that we have, but he is undeniably one of the most hardworking and the most in shape, but he can be replaced with any of the defensive/holding midfielders Egypt has at its disposal. He seems to have solidified his place in Bradley’s team, but it remains to be seen what comes of him with the new coach. Hossam is not an overly exceptional player, and many people see him as a poor man’s Mohamed Shawky. Many young players will be challenging him for his position, and it is possible that he is replaced.
Mohamed El-Nenny was completely non-existent during the Ghana game, just as Hossam Ghaly, Hossam Ashour and pretty much the rest of the team were, but being a 21-year-old defensive midfielder that is now seen as a regular for the Egyptian national team and a usual regular in FC Basel speaks for itself. He will form the backbone of a very talented midfield for the next 15 years.
So, in the midfield, we must brace for the retirement of Mohamed Abou-Treika but realize that we have valuable attacking midfield replacements such as Walid Soliman. Our defensive midfielder corps is certainly a positive for us, with Mohamed El-Nenny, Hossam Ghaly and Hossam Ashour seen as starting midfield options for the next few years. However, I would certainly welcome a move to sweeper for Ghaly. Other midfield options will be discussed in a later part of this article.
Finally, as thin as we are in defense, we are even thinner in attack, shown by Bradley’s decision to play with a false 9 for much of the qualifiers.
Mohamed Salah and his goalscoring record speak for itself. He is undoubtedly the new Mohamed Abou-Treika and the player we should be building around.
I believe Walid Soliman will modify his winger role and begin to play in the central midfield role once held by Mohamed Abou-Treika.
However, until we do find a formidable striker, or until we get Gedo back into form, we may have to stick with the false 9 and find someone to replace Soliman on the wing, maybe someone like Shikabala.
Now let’s take a look at the other players called up by Bob Bradley for the Ghana game and for many of the qualifiers.
Ahmed El-Shennawy (22)
Mohamed Sobhy (32)
Ahmed Elmohamady (26)
Ahmed Hegazy (22)
Rami Rabia (20)
Sayed Moawad (34)
Mohamed Abdel-Shafy (28)
Hazem Emam (25)
Adam El-Abd (29)
Ahmed Samir Farag (26)
Mahmoud Fathallah (31)
Amr Al Sulaya (23)
Hosni Abd Rabo (28)
Ahmed Eid (33)
Abdullah El Said (28)
Ibrahim Salah (26)
Mohamed Ibrahim (21)
Omar Gaber (21)
Ahmed Hamoudi (24)
Ahmed Gaafar (27)
Ahmed Hassan Mekky (26)
Let’s start with goalkeepers.
As mentioned earlier, Ahmed El-Shennawy should be seen as the clear successor to Sherif Ekramy once he gets more experience and playing time with Zamalek.
Mohamed Sobhy has probably played in his last national team camp.
Mossad Awad should take Sobhy’s place as the third goalkeeper. Although he has moved to Ahly and will not figure to play much, the guy is a STUD, as evidenced by his performances in the U-20 World Cup and in the 2013 U-20 African Cup. He is only 20 years old, two years younger than El-Shennawy, so unless he is able to outshine Shennawy whenever he gets his chance for Al-Ahly, he will likely always play a reliable second fiddle.
Moving on to the defenders.
With the loss of Wael Gomaa, we are in need of some veteran leadership, to which I proposed keeping Mohamed Naguib around as a veteran backup, and relying on Hossam Ghaly as an anchor beside Ahmed Hegazy and Rami Rabia.
Ahmed Hegazy and Rami Rabia should be seen as the clear leaders for our future centre defense partnership. They are young and relatively untested, but if they can stay healthy and avoid the nagging knee injuries that they are both plagued with, the future looks very bright with these two.
Sayed Moawad needs to be removed from the national team picture.
Mohamed Abdel-Shafy is the only player that I see currently being able to challenge Shedid Kenawy for the starting left back position, although there are some youth team options, which I will explore later.
Ahmed Samir Farag, in my opinion, is no better than Shedid Kenawy or Abdel-Shafy and should not be considered for the national team picture anymore.
Ahmed Elmohamady and Hazem Emam will undoubtedly remain in the national team picture for the starting right back position, competing with Ahmed Fathi. Fathi will likely start when needing to play defensive, with either Elmo or Emam coming in when the coach decides to add some attacking firepower coming from the right back position.
I think we have seen enough of Adam El Abd. It was a good experiment, but he simply isn’t good enough for a team with aspirations to make a World Cup.
If this was a few years ago and you mentioned Ahmed Said ‘Okka’ to me, I would jump at the chance to have him on the national team, but he seems to have aged harder than anyone and is not the player he used to be. Verdict: Cut from the national team picture unless in dire need of backups.
I have seen enough of Mahmoud Fathallah to realize he is not national team material and should be removed from the NT picture soon.
So, if I were to pick a defensive shortlist for the new national team, from the players that have been selected recently in important games, I would keep Shedid Kenawy, Mohamed Abdel Shafy, Hossam Ghaly, Rami Rabia, Ahmed Hegazy, Mohamed Naguib, Ahmed Fathi, Hazem Emam, and Ahmed Elmohamady (and Okka as a last choice).
Moving on to the Midfield
Of the listed midfielders that were recently called up, I can see them all getting their chance in future national team selections except for Ahmed Eid. I am all for keeping him around for experience and leadership, but I do not expect to see him playing an important playing role in the team. As much of a hothead he may be, he is a talented veteran and can always lend important advice to youngsters such as Omar Gaber, or Mohamed Ibrahim.
Abdullah El-Said does not seem to be looked at favorably by many Egypt fans, but I do not feel he has got his chance with Egypt, and I would love to see him challenge Walid Soliman for the role left by Abou-Treika.
Shikabala… well what can we say? The ever-present talisman that is so potent for Zamalek, yet so futile for Egypt. The man has enough talent to warrant future call-ups for the national team, but if his futility continues, call-ups must end.
It seems like Hosni Abd-Rabo has been playing forever, but he is still only 28. Coming off of a gruesome ACL tear, it remains to be seen how effective he will be in the future. If he’s half the player he was before the injury, he should still definitely challenge for a starting position in the team.
Amr El-Sulaya is the type of player you build a team around. This is the guy Bob Bradley camp was talking about picking to replace Abd-Rabo. He is a special talent that needs to be utilized. He may not be as energetic as Hossam Ashour, but he is more talented, and can be a formidable puzzle piece to build around along with Mohamed El-Nenny and Mohamed Salah.
Ahmed Hamoudi may not be the most household name, but he has shown his abilities in the league and in friendlies for the national team. I am all for him continuing to receive call-ups, and hopefully he can move to a bigger club than Smouha.
So, as always, our midfield options are ever-present with Hossam Ashour, Mohamed El-Nenny, Walid Soliman, Abdullah El-Said, Omar Gaber, Mohamed Ibrahim, Ibrahim Salah, Hosni Abd-Rabo, Amr El-Sulaya, and Shikabala all to chose from, and other players such as Shehab Ahmed of Al-Ahly or Nour El-Sayed of Al-Zamalek as well as other youth players that will be addressed later. Our midfield is set, which is much more than can be said about our strikers…
The Striker situation
Gedo is the only striker with experience that has anything left in the tank.
Amr Zaki seems to have had a bit of a resurgence, but I highly doubt he is the Zaki of the past. However, if he can go back to his scoring-for-fun-days, I would welcome his future call-ups. He is 30 years old, but if his potency comes back and stays, age is only a number. This is highly unlikely, however, and I do not think we will see him on the squad in a years time, and especially not in any World Cup qualifier squad.
Kahraba and Koka can definitely be the future starting strikers of the national team, and I look forward to seeing them getting called up.
Ahmed Gaafar and Ahmed Hassan Mekky shouldn’t ever be within miles of a national team camp. Average players at best.
So, we are severely lacking in striker ability, with Gedo being our only reliable option. If Zaki and Emad Meteb can get back into form, good, but I doubt it. The future is bright, however, with Kahraba, Koka, and Mohamed Salah.
Now, how can we forget the youth squads that have improved and impressed so much under the guidance of Hany Ramzy, Rabie Yassin, and Diaa El-Sayed?
Taking a look at the 2012 Olympic Team:
Let’s exclude the 3 senior players : Ahmed Fathi, Mohamed Abou-Treika, and Emad Meteb.
Ahmed El-Shennawy, Ahmed Hegazy, Mohamed El-Nenny, and Mohamad Salah are regulars/usual call-ups for the national team.
Mahmoud Alaa El-Din (6’2″ – good height) was called up for two friendlies against Uganda before the Ghana game and played well. He was also Hegazy’s partner during the Olympic games.
Saad Samir has featured periodically for Al-Ahly throughout the last two shortened seasons and was called up for one of the qualifiers against Zimbabwe, and he seems like a competent defender. What he lacks in speed he makes up with good positioning and relatively good height (6’1″).
Islam Ramadan was the first choice left-back, and arguably was the player with the most buzz about him at the time. His move to Ahli Tripoli has limited his exposure to Bradley and the coaching staff, so hopefully with the permanent return of the Egyptian Premier League, he can move back to Egypt and get even more exposure. To his credit, he does seem like a talented player, and he should definitely challenge Shedid Kenawy and Mohamed Abdel-Shafy for the left back position.
Shehab Ahmed is a good player in his own right, but will he ever get a chance through the abundance of midfielders that we already have at our disposal? I doubt it.
Salah Gomaa… what a weird kid. This guy turned his career around, in a bad way, by simply talking too much about his trials and how much the coaches were impressed by him. He turned down an offer from FC Greuther Furth because he thought he could get a better offer after the U-20 World Cup, where he proceeded to sit on the bench, and when he finally played, he was average. The kid has a lot of hype that I hope he can live up to, but maybe there’s a reason he is a bench warmer for ENPPI. He is only twenty years old, and he has some major growing up to do before I see him playing a major part in our national team.
Hossam Hassan returned to Al-Masry after a loan spell with Rizespor, who were in Turkey’s second division at the time, but I don’t see a scenario where he impresses enough to warrant another call-up, but weirder things have happened.
Marwan Mohsen has had a lot of hype built upon him, and he has been called up by the national team ten times and has scored three goals. I have to admit, however, I have not been impressed by him and I do not think he has lived up to his hype yet. We shall see what comes of him once the league restarts.
Ahmed Magdy is the type of explosive young player that the national team can use up front. He reminds me of Mohamed Salah with his direct play that always leads to him attacking the goal. I hope he gets another call up soon, and I expect it to happen, due to our lack of striking options.
There are some players not on this squad that deserve a mention – players that played on the 2011 U-20 World Cup team, etc.
Mohamed Abdel-Fattah was Ahmed Hegazy’s centre defensive partner during the 2011 U-20 World Cup, and I very much liked the look of him.
Salah Soliman has had recent call ups to the U-20 and U-23 teams. He has secured a starting position in Zamalek’s defense, highlighting his ability. He is worth a look.
Sherif Ibrahim of RCD Espanyol. I do not know much about him, but for him to be playing in Espanyol at such a young age, he is worth a future look, at least on the U-23 team.
Ahmed Nabil Manga has played sporadically for Al-Ahly throughout the years. With more playing time, he may blossom into a great player.
Let’s now take a look at the 2013 U-20 World Cup roster – one filled with so much talent but no fruition.
Koka, Kahraba, and Rami Rabia are all regular call-ups for the national team, which is a good sign. We need to get them involved early for good experience and learning.
Mahmoud Metwally started beside Rami Rabia in this campaign, and while neither of them were exceptional, I did see Metwally having to cover for a still-recovering-from-injury Rabia multiple times. If Metwally can cement a spot in Ismaily’s starting 11, I see no reason he should not be given a better look in the U-23 set up and in future friendlies for the national team. We have a shortage of defenders, and we need to experiment.
Osama Ibrahim was the co-captain of the team during the U-20 World Cup and was the most passionate, impressive player throughout the games I watched. It was nice seeing a left back fit enough to play the whole game while contributing equally to defense and attack. He and Islam Ramadan will make for good competition on the left defensive end with Shedid Kenawy and Mohamed Abdel-Shafy.
Ahmed Refaat was a spark whenever he came on for the U-20 team, and he was given a few trials this season. It will be interesting to see his future development, but he definitely looks like one for the future.
Mahmoud Hassan ‘Trezeguet’ is now playing in a rotation system for the current African Champions Al-Ahly, so that says all you need to know about the kid. Wonderful talent with a bright future, and it is only a matter of time before he gets a call up.
And finally, the Pharaohs Abroad.
Salah, El-Nenny, Elmohamady, Gedo, Koka, Kahraba, Hegazy, Ghaly, Ibrahim Salah, and Zaki look to stay in the national team selection for a while. But what about our younger contingent overseas?
Ali Ghazal is now a feature for an improving Nacional team, and he has had a couple of call-ups for national team camps. Surely, it is only a matter of time before he is stuck into a friendly game or two with a chance to prove himself.
More importantly, Egypt have to secure their players with multiple nationalities before they get tired of waiting for the Egyptian FA to recover from their ineptitude and casual laziness and decide to play for another eligible country. I’m talking about players like Abdallah Yasien, Rhami Jasin-Ghandour, Amro Tarek and Amir Adel (Alexander Jakobsen).
Yasien seems to have his own little problems with the FA that need to be addressed and sorted out before he decides to settle his unknown future and play with Egypt. He seems like an exceptional player, though. We need to lock him up, soon.
Rhami Jasin-Ghandour is a younger player who seems more anxious to play for Egypt. He has somewhat of an unknown playing style due to low exposure, but if we can lock him up by playing for our youth teams and eventually build him up for our national team, he is surely worth the experiment in years time.
Amro Tarek is a young talent playing in Wolfsburg’s B Team, with dual Egyptian and American citizenship. In due time, I am sure he can eventually get German citizenship and be eligible to play for either of the three countries. As a tall, talented striker, it is imperative that we can meet his wishes and call him up for the Egypt national team once he hopefully breaks through to the first team of Wolfsburg or another foreign team.
Amir Adel is a weird case. We were fortunate enough to lock him up for our youth team, but he hardly played a minute in the U-20 World Cup. The kid seems to have enough talent to play for the Danish national team, so I’m still scratching my head about his lack of playing time. I’m not sure about the FIFA ruling concerning his future decision of national allegiance. FIFA has always been iffy about cases concerning players that play for one country’s youth team before wanting to switch allegiance to another country’s senior team. It seems as if FIFA flips a coin to make a verdict. To avoid the possibility of Adel choosing Denmark, we have to accommodate into our future youth team and make him a key player, make him enjoy playing Egyptian football, and eventually bring him into the national team if he is a capable, willing player. Time will tell.
So, my point is – the present may be bleak, and Egypt may look to be going nowhere, athletically and politically, but the future is bright for the national team. Starting with an exodus of older players like Mohamed Abou-Treika (unfortunately), Wael Gomaa, Sayed Moawad, Amr Zaki, Mohamed Sobhy, Abdel-Wahed El-Sayed, possibly Mohamed Naguib and Hossam Ghaly, Egypt can begin to rebuild around Mohamed Salah, Walid Soliman, Mohamed El-Nenny, and Amr El-Sulaya while still utilizing their reliable players like Hosni Abd-Rabo, Ahmed Fathi, Gedo, and Ahmed Elmohamady. Fringe players like Mohamed Ibrahim, Omar Gaber, and Ibrahim Salah must now be given chances to replace the older players.
The inclusion of players from youth teams that have made two straight U-20 world cups and qualified for the Olympics cannot be overlooked either. Players like Kahraba, Koka, Rabia, Hegazy, Islam Ramadan, Osama Ibrahim, Trezeguet, Ahmed Magdy, Mahmoud Alaa, Saad Samir, Shehab Ahmed, and Ahmed Refaat must be given chances. We must secure the allegiances of Amir Adel, Abdallah Yasien, Rhami Jasin-Ghandour, and Amro Tarek.
The future is bright, Pharaohs. Whether the promise can lead to a World Cup birth, or even another African Cup of Nations appearance, remains to be seen.
Thank you for reading. Feel free to comment below or tweet me at @mmghanem_ for comments and criticism.