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OPINION | Why Gharib must go & what went wrong for Egypt
After two back-to-back horrendous displays by the Egyptian national team, KingFut editor Marwan Ahmed analyses what went wrong and why he believes recently appointed manager Shawky Gharib is not the right man for the job.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of KingFut.
The losses against Senegal and Tunisia – Egypt’s first two matches in Group G of Africa Cup of Nations qualifying – has put the biggest dent in the Pharaohs’ qualification campaign for a major tournament since they were humiliated by Ghana around 11 months ago in Kumasi.
But one has to wonder, what went wrong in Dakar & Cairo? What are the reasons for Egypt’s below-par showings and who should be held responsible for such shameful results?
Where do I start with Shawky Gharib? He may have won Egypt’s only medal at a major competition (bronze at the U-20 World Cup in 2001), he may have been a good assistant manager to Hassan Shehata, but he certainly is not the man to lead our national team. Wrong tactical approaches to games, poor squad selections and a weak personality were the highlights of Gharib in Egypt’s horrendous displays against Senegal and Tunisia.
Gharib sat on the bench for more than 80 minutes in the game against Tunisia, while leaving his assistant manager to scream at the players. The fans were calling for him to get up and do something, but he was just there sitting, kneeling on his palms. And after the game ended, he headed straight for the tunnel. Incredible.
What’s funny is that he tried to point fingers at the media and fans after the loss in Cairo, by claiming to have changed the team just like ‘we’ wanted, and the outcome was the same. He then simply said: “That’s the current level of our players.”
I don’t know what Gharib was thinking by making those remarks. Under his disposal are arguably some of Egypt’s brightest young talents in the history of the national team. Some are beginning to make names for themselves in Europe, and then comes Gharib criticizing their levels. I’m sorry Mr. Gharib, but some of your selections for the team were horrible.
Hossam Ghaly is finished, it’s as simple as that. It was obvious in Kumasi, but for some reason it was not for Gharib’s coaching staff. The 32-year-old may captain his club, but he is not a good enough player for the national team any longer. Ghaly doesn’t act like a captain, doesn’t have the charisma that a captain should have, and it seems he doesn’t know the worth of wearing the armband for this great nation – a nation of 90 million hoping to see their football-dreams fulfilled.
His position on the pitch is considered to be very crucial to how a game may pan out. A player who loses the ball 20 times in central midfield (against Senegal, as per KoraStats), torturing us with his misplaced passes and hopeless shots, poor positioning, leaving men running past him and not even bothering to chase after them (see Fakhreddine Ben Youssef’s goal), is not the man for Egypt. Gharib’s persistence on Ghaly made us feel like just because he’s captain, he will have to start every single game; as if the man with the armband on can’t be substituted. Against Tunisia the following Wednesday, he was being slagged off by almost every fan in the stadium.
If it wasn’t clear that Hosni Abd-Rabo should’ve started the second game against Tunisia after Ghaly’s performance against Senegal, it became clearer midway through the first-half in Cairo when Gharib sent Hosni to warm-up. But by then it was too late as the goal had already been scored, and we were going to waste one useful substitution that could’ve been used to better cause. Egypt were a completely different team once a real captain (Hosni Abd-Rabo) stepped on the pitch. Any player that was slacking almost instantly was given a mouthful by him, and unlike former Tottenham midfielder Ghaly, made no silly mistakes that could’ve cost us.
The best and strongest characters of various national teams get dropped by managers, simply because they are not good enough anymore; despite their service over the years. Look at Michael Essien – how many minutes did he get at the World Cup in Brazil? But of course, you need a manager with a strong personality to drop the biggest names, and Shawky Gharib does not.
Who do you expect to be the top scorer in the Egyptian Premier League this season?
Ahmed Elmohamady is another player who often disappoints on the international stage, but Gharib continues to call. ‘Elmo’ may be fantastic with Hull City, but he’s shown time after time that he is not a national team player. Former Egypt coach Bob Bradley also questioned Elmohamady’s ability to produce for the national team as he does for his club, eventually dropping him prior to the 2014 World Cup qualifying return leg against Ghana last November. In a KingFut.com interview with Bradley, he said: “After many conversations, I felt that in the final moment, he [Ahmed Elmohamady] doesn’t bring the mentality we needed to fight in the second game.” He would be good as a third option for the right-back slot; acting as back-up to Hazem Emam, who was strangely benched against Senegal, and Ahmed Fathi.
Speaking of Fathi, Gharib may have thought that just because he had a near-perfect game against Bosnia on the left side of the pitch – in a friendly which marked Gharib’s debut as manager prior to the World Cup – it meant he would again against Senegal. Well, that wasn’t the case, and I’m not blaming him for that, I’ll just blame him for not having a “plan B” in case it didn’t work. Despite an injury to first-choice left-back Mohamed Abdel-Shafy, he left a potential plan B (Al Ahly left-back Sabri Rahil) outside of his 18-man squad, citing inexperience for the decision. I would agree if he played Rahil from the start and he failed, but it takes managers with guts to do that. For example, giving a player his official first team debut in a Champions League final (Ryan Bertrand of Chelsea in 2012 by Roberto Di Matteo), not that I’m trying to compare both teams, of course.
Yes, I’m also blaming Mohamed Salah, and not just Gharib’s way of deploying him. Salah has looked like a mere shadow of himself during AFCON qualifiers thus far, entering the international break having last played a full match for his club Chelsea around a month ago (which was just a pre-season friendly). Had Salah been wiser, he wouldn’t have taken such ill-advice to move to the Blues and would’ve moved to a club that would guarantee him regular playing time. Even though Chelsea had scored 6 goals in a thriller against Everton prior to the international week, the Egyptian was left on the bench. This seemed like the perfect game for Salah to impact as Everton were going all out to score a goal – and who better to hit them on the counter than Salah? Not to mention that the 22-year-old winger was overlooked by Jose Mourinho in the first two games of the league, the club’s first UEFA Champions League group stages match and was not even included in the matchday squads, which at the moment seems like it will be happening often unless Salah decides to move on in January.
Gharib meddled around with the formation of team and player positions way too much; starting out in a 4-4-2 against Tunisia, which looked more like a 4-3-3 – giving responsibility to Ahmed Said ‘Okka’ and Aly Ghazal to mark fast players like Youssef Msakni, Ben Youssef and the tricky Yassine Chikhaoui, and it backfired. Then Gharib decided to switch to a clear 4-4-2 with Hazem Emam and Salah on opposite wings, which then changed again when Shikabala came on for Mohamed El-Nenny. Ahmed Fathi started the game in midfield, went to right-back for a while, then back to midfield; while Hazem started at right-back, went to right-wing and then back to right-back. Too much meddling is never good for team stability and that’s what exactly happened. Had it not been for Emam and Abdel-Shafy, our defence would’ve been in tatters. In fact, Ben Youssef was unlucky not to get his name on the sheet again after his ball hit the post, using the same strategy (speed) to beat his man.
With that being said, Gharib decided to leave much better players either on the bench, in the reserves or not called up at all. There are two men in Egypt who can take control of a pitch. Hosni Abd-Rabo and Tarek Hamed. One of them was on the bench for the majority of the first half, while the other was not called up. After the season Hamed had, it’s ridiculous that he did not even get a look into the team. Completely out-muscling and dominating every single team he’s played against with his mesmerizing long passing range, switching the ball from side-to-side and making opposition chase helplessly (refer to Smouha’s league win over Zamalek). Other players that I think should’ve gotten a look in include Mohamed Ibrahim, Ahmed Tawfik, Ahmed Dweidar, Yasser Ibrahim, Saad Samir, Ibrahim Abdel-Khalek and Sherif Hazem.
It seems that replacing Bob Bradley with Shawky Gharib has not resulted in a positive effect on the national team, and so a further change in personnel is required. Two candidates who would find it hard to say no to this post may be Hassan Shehata or Manuel Jose, who I believe both can help rebuild the confidence in the squad. Several players such as Hossam Ghaly and Essam El-Hadary should retire from international football, while the likes of Ahmed Elmohamady should not be called up anytime soon.