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Ahmed Hassan: The most capped player with no World Cup minutes
Ahmed Hassan, the most capped player in international football who didn’t manage one World Cup appearance during his long lasting 17-year international career.
The proclaimed ‘Egyptian Falcon’ has been one of Egypt’s greatest ever living players, whether it was his great European career or his role as Egypt’s captain through the golden years in which they won three back-to-back AFCON titles.
Despite his legendary status, during his long international career that lasted exactly 16 years and 145 days and managed 184 caps, he has never had one single second in the World Cup.
Ahmed Hassan started his international career in 1995 at the young age of 20 after impressing with his boyhood club of Aswan and scoring seven goals in 15 appearances for the club. Just three years later in the 1998 African Cup of Nations in Burkina Faso, the midfielder announced himself on the international stage after hitting a screamer of a ball from 30 yards out into the net to help Egypt win the final 2-0 against South Africa.
During the Falcon’s career, Egypt failed to qualify for four World Cups. Heartbreak after another, Ahmed Hassan found himself winning four AFCON titles, but failing to even qualify for the Holy Grail of international tournaments, the World Cup.
During the 1998 France World Cup qualifiers, Egypt were among the top four ranked teams alongside Morocco, Cameroon and Nigeria, so they qualified directly for the second round which had five groups of four teams. All three teams qualified, except for Egypt who came second in the group with 10 points behind Tunisia who were on 16 points. Our loss away to Liberia and Tunisia together with our draw at home to Tunisia killed our hopes of qualification even though we battered Namibia 7-1 at home.
The road to 2002 in Korea & Japan saw the Egyptian FA bring back the ‘General’ Mahmoud El-Gohary to try and emulate the qualification to 1990 World Cup in Italy. Again Egypt qualified for the second round where 25 teams were distributed among five groups where the winner qualified for the tournament.
Egypt were placed in a group which had Morocco, Senegal, Algeria and Namibia. Egypt came third while Senegal qualified. This was a tough one for Ahmed Hassan who was playing great football and was one of the best midfielders in Turkey while playing for Genclerbirligi. He scored 23 goals for his side in 41 appearances, a goal nearly every other game whilst also twice making the final of the Turkish Cup.
The 2006 qualifiers saw Egypt in a group with Libya, Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Benin and Sudan. Ahmed Hassan scored three goals, but Egypt came third in a disappointing campaign under the Italian Tardelli’s helm. He was playing for Turkish giants Besiktas at the time making 79 appearances across all competitions, netting 30 times in the process. While captaining Egypt, Hassan also led Besiktas to winning the Turkish cup during his final season for the club before leaving for Belgian side Anderlecht.
During his Anderlecht days, the Egyptian was a fan favourite, he played in a more advanced role and showed creativity as well as scoring a few goals and winning the Belgian league during his first season. The Anderlecht faithful still sing of Ahmed Hassan’s name around the Constant Vanden Stock Stadium.
By the time Ahmed Hassan left Belgium to return to Egypt, joining Al Ahly in 2008, after leading Egypt to win the second consecutive AFCON title in Ghana. During his last playing years, Ahmed Hassan was still indispensable for the Pharaohs as he led Egypt to a fourth personal AFCON title in 2010 while earning the tournament’s MVP for the second time after 2006.
During the 2010 AFCON, Ahmed Hassan managed to overtake Hossam Hassan as Egypt’s most capped player with 170 caps in the quarter final against Cameroon in which the Falcon managed to score a wonderful 40-yard strike to go on and celebrate with an Egypt shirt that’s got 170 written on it.
Egypt as a country suffered heartbreak in the 2010 World Cup qualifiers in South Africa, where the golden age of players came so close, but yet were to far after failing to win against Algeria in the infamous match of Omdurman, in Sudan.
Ahmed Hassan finished his international career in 2012 even though he was still applying his trade at Zamalek where he retired just one year later.
The Falcon had an illustrious career both internationally and on club level, he was arguably the most consistent player for Egypt along the years and had a great European career that not many of his compatriots could say the same.
His temperament on and off the pitch as well his professional attitude were reasons for why he was picked time and time again to lead Egypt to the top of Africa’s throne. He surely would have wished one World Cup appearance at least, but he could look back at a legendary career and not lose sleep over what he has achieved for his country and his fans.