FEATURE: Was Javier Aguirre the right choice for Egypt?
The Egyptian Football Association (EFA) have been searching for a new boss following Egypt’s disappointing performances at the World Cup, which saw them lose all three of their games to Uruguay, Russia, and Saudi Arabia and finish bottom of Group A.
Cúper was named the Pharaohs’ manager in March 2015 and went on to coach Egypt in 38 games, guiding them to the World Cup for the first time in 28 years as well as making the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations final. Despite their initial success, Egypt have not won a game since their dramatic World Cup qualifier against Congo in October 2017, drawing three and losing six since then.
Cúper’s contract was up for renewal at the end of the World Cup, and although he was in talks with the Egyptian FA over a possible extension before the start of the global showpiece, his team’s below-par performances saw him lose his job.
Egypt regressed under the tutelage of a coach who neither understood tactics nor the mere task of deploying players in their rightful position, which was rather embarrassing for a country famed for producing exquisite and winning tacticians. Following Cuper’s departure, the EFA insisted that “important names” were being considered for the job.
How was Aguirre picked?
A committee consisting of EFA board members Magdy Abdel-Ghany, Essam Abdel-Fatah, and Hazem Emam was put together to assess all the managerial options. They released a shortlist of four names to replace the Argentinian, which included Jorge Luis Pinto, Quique Sánchez Flores, Javier Aguirre, and Vahid Halilhodžić. There were also talks of bringing in an Egyptian coach with Hossam Hassan being a clear front-runner.
Football agent Nader El-Sayed had also revealed that the EFA have contacted Arsenal legend and Belgium national team assistant coach Thierry Henry for the vacant Egypt job. However, Henry released a series of tweets, denying such contact.
The EFA have decided to hire former Mexico and Japan national team manager Javier Aguirre, with the 59-year-old signing a four-year contract. Aguirre’s contract with the Pharaohs will run until the 2022 World Cup, and will see him earn a monthly salary of $120,000.
Aguirre will become the first Mexican to take charge of the Egyptian national team, and only the second North American after American Bob Bradley. His first game in charge will be against Niger this September in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers.
Javier Aguirre’s Resume:
The 59-year-old managed Mexico in two World Cups, 2002 and 2010, and was eliminated from the Round of 16 in both tournaments. His only silverware with the Mexican national team was the Gold Cup in 2009.
Aguirre then took charge of the Japanese national team in August 2014, but his contract was terminated on February 2015 after he was allegedly involved in a match-fixing incident during his time at Real Zaragoza. His most successful stint came between 2002 and 2006 with CA Osasuna, when he guided them to a fourth-place finish in the league, which earned them a spot in the Champions League.
The Mexican also took charge of Mexican sides Atlante and Pachuca, Spain’s Atletico Madrid, Real Zaragoza, and Espanyol, and Al-Wahda of UAE. He has also won the Mexican Primera División with Pachuca and UAE President’s and League Cups with Al-Wahda during his managerial career.
Why was Hossam Hassan the fans’ favorite to take over the national team job?
Hossam Hassan was the leading candidate to succeed Héctor Cúper as the Pharoahs’ head coach. The former international forward who currently manages Al Masry led them to a top-four finish in the league for three consecutive seasons. Hossam had a big effect on the Green Eagles since joining them, as he was able to a lead a young unskillful team battling relegation that previous year to a top-four finish the next season.
His experience in international football includes working with the Jordanian national team in 2013 where they impressed and finished third in their group beating Uzbekistan in a playoff, however, they did not make it to the World Cup as they eventually lost to Uruguay despite an impressive draw at home.
Managing Egypt wouldn’t have been his first time leading an international team. From past experiences, it is proven that local managers were able to guide the national team for greater success, for example; Egyptian legend Mahmoud El-Gohary, who managed to guide Egypt to their first World Cup appearance in 56 years – the 1990 edition in Italy. Another example is the general of African football, Hassan Shehata, who led Egypt to three successive titles at the Africa Cup of Nations in 2006, 2008, and 2010. Egypt became the first African nation to achieve such record. As a result of this, the Egyptian team were ranked as high as 9th in the FIFA World Rankings.
Hossam Hassan remains as the national team’s top scorer in history. From his long journey with the national team, he understands the team play of the Pharaohs and what it means to fight for your nation. Finally, from Hector Cuper’s past involvement with the national team, he was well known for his rigid defensive tactics which led to the Pharaohs’ downfall at the World Cup. However, Hossam Hassan could have changed that around, as he is well known for his attacking type of play which the national team could have benefited from that a lot.
Was Aguirre the best fit?
In my opinion, Aguirre had the most impressive CV among the choices being considered, and crucially, he lowered his wage demands for Egypt.
On the pitch, he seems like a good fit for international football. He’ll motivate his players, organise the defense, and move towards a slightly more aggressive style. He’ll try to gain back the team’s identity of possession football, but he’ll prevent them from becoming too stale, like they were against Uruguay.
On the other hand, there are potential problems. His prickly personality can turn people off, and it can become even worse given the locker room’s inherent tension between Al Ahly and Zamalek players.
Some say he lacks tactical flexibility or imagination, and while those criticisms could be true, they are probably less relevant in the international sphere, where teams don’t get to practice tactics too thoroughly anyway and simpler plans can often succeed. The international arena is very tricky; teams usually only get one chance every two years at winning trophies, and even one bad game can derail that. Still, Javier Aguirre could be a blessing for Egypt.
What do you think about the appointment of Aguirre? Was he the right man for the job, or should it have been someone else like Hossam Hassan?
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