Saturday, February 22, 2020

Do Egypt’s performances signal the arrival of African football?

Does the 1-0 Egypt victory over Italy, following their narrow and controversial 4-3 defeat to Brazil, signal the fact that African football is now a major world force?

There have been times previously when one nation or another has looked like putting Africa on the footballing map, notably in 1990 when England were desperately lucky to get past Cameroon on their way to the semi-final of the world cup.

World class

Both Ghana and the Ivory Coast have some truly world class players but have yet to make an impact on the wider stage. Other countries such as Nigeria, South Africa, Senegal, Togo and Tunisia have threatened to make the big break through but it hasn’t quite happened.

In the current world cup qualifying campaign Egypt sit bottom of their group, below Algeria, Zambia and Rwanda having drawn with Zambia and lost to Algeria. The current African cup of nations champions have made a slow and disappointing start to the tournament that they have only twice qualified for in their history.


However, in the Confederations Cup Egypt look like a very decent side indeed. They were unfortunate to lose to Brazil in their first game but have given themselves a serious chance of qualifying after they deservedly beat Italy 1-0. They didn’t create many chances and their keeper, Essam El Hadari, made a string of fine saves, but overall they matched the world champions all over the pitch.

Brazil showed in their simple demolition of the USA what a fine side they are and what a good performance Egypt had put in against them as well.


When Homos headed in for Egypt five minutes before half-time in the game against Italy, that moment may have signified a lot more than just the Egyptian team taking the lead. It could possibly have said something about an entire footballing continent.

Italy may be a slightly ageing team but they are the world champions, they are top of their World Cup qualifying group and they have a brilliant and successful manager. Nothing should be taken away from the performance put in by Egypt who have made a very strong statement in their two games so far. If, as expected, they see off the USA side, they may well make it to the semi-finals and who knows what could happen from there.

False dawns

There have been many false dawns for African football but I wonder if there is now a slight shift in the balance of power in the game. Whether or not Egypt recover from their disappointing start in the qualifiers and get to South Africa, there will be some very strong African teams in the finals held in their own continent.

Maybe Ghana and the Ivory Coast look to be the strongest challenge that may come from that part of the world. They both currently have 100% records in their qualifying groups and they can boast many world class players between them.


Ghana made it to round two in the 2006 World Cup with victories over the USA and the Czech Republic, before going out to Brazil. They are a big strong team and include the likes of Inter’s Sulley Muntari and Chelsea’s Michael Essien.

The Ivory Coast were disappointing in going out in the first round in 2006, but being able to boast the likes of Arsenal’s Kolo Toure and Emmanuel Eboue, Barcelona’s Yaya Toure, Lyon’s Abdul Keita and Chelsea’s Didier Drogba and Salomon Kalou, they have to be a force to reckoned with.


Whatever happens in the rest of the Confederations Cup Egypt have done themselves proud and have waved the flag for Africa.

The usual suspects of Italy, Germany, Spain, Brazil and Argentina will no doubt start the next World Cup as favourites, but it may well be prudent to have an outside bet on one of the African nations.


Graham Fisher



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