Five reasons explain importance of Egypt's win over Nigeria

Published March 30th, 2016 - 07:00 GMT
Egyptian national football team
Egyptian national football team

Five reasons to believe Egypt's 1-0 win over Nigeria on Tuesday is considered an achievement for the record seven-time Nations Cup winners

1- Ending Nations Cup absence

Egypt's victory over Nigeria put them on the brink of qualification for next year's edition in Gabon for the first time since 2010.

Barring a huge upset, they should make it through after collecting seven points from three games after their results against Chad were annulled due to the sudden withdrawal of the latter.

Nigeria (two points) lost any hopes of qualifying for the Nations Cup and Tanzania's (one point) chances of springing a surprise are very slim.

They need to beat Egypt by more than a three-goal margin to have the upper hand in the head-to-head record, given that they suffered an opening 3-0 defeat by the Pharaohs in June last year, and overcome Nigeria in their final game.

2- Beating high-profile team for first time in years

Egypt have finally managed to overcome a tough opposition after several years of underachievement marked by stumbles against their main challengers, costing them a Nations Cup place for three straight times.

Since winning the last of their record seven Nations Cup titles in 2010, Egypt have been firmly on the backfoot against some of the continent's top guns, appearing a shadow of the side that swept Africa with an unprecedented hat-trick of straight AFCON triumphs.

They lost away to South Africa and could not overcome them at home in the 2012 qualifiers and more disastrous results followed in the 2015 qualifying campaign.

Egypt lost four home and away matches against Tunisia and Senegal to finish third in their group.

They were also humiliated in a stunning 6-1 reverse away to Ghana in the first leg of a 2014 World Cup qualifying playoff. Although Egypt won the second leg 2-1 at home, it was a mere consolation and it was not until the Nigeria clash that they finally put an end to their poor results against fancied opponents.

3- Improving FIFA ranking

The win over Nigeria was pivotal in boosting Egypt's chances of becoming a top seed side for the anticipated World Cup qualifying draw in June.

Based on FIFA's complex coefficient rankings, they would be well placed when the draw takes place in Cairo and might fulfill their target of being in the top five African sides to avoid potential meetings the likes of Ivory Coast and Algeria.

Egypt have not qualified for the World Cup since the 1990 tournament in Italy. They lost to Algeria and Ghana in two qualifying playoffs in 2009 and 2013 respectively.

Twenty teams will be drawn into five four-team groups, with the winners directly qualifying for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

4- Boosting morale of young players

Many might have wondered why the victory over Nigeria had sparked wild celebrations following the final whistle, but the joy is justified because the current crop of players was not given the chance to represent Egypt on a high level.

For instance, AS Roma's in-form winger Mohamed Salah and Arsenal midfielder Mohamed Elneny are yet to feature in the Nations Cup, and so are most of their peers.

Other rising youngsters, such as teenager Ramadan Sobhi who scored the winner against Nigeria, will be boosted by taking part in such high-profile competitions at a young age.

5- Fan support

Egypt basked in the support of more than 50,000 fans at Alexandria's Borg El-Arab Stadium after authorities had agreed to temporarily lift a long-standing crowd ban.

Several players lauded the impact the supporters had on the game and an Egyptian Football Association board member said the game against Nigeria may be be key in allowing the fans back to the stands.

An African Confederation Cup final between Ahly and Ivory Coast's Sewe Sport in Cairo in late 2014 proved a turning point in a similar manner but the ban was re-imposed a few months later when more than 20 Zamalek supporters died in a stampede after being tear-gassed by security forces before the start of a domestic league match.

© Copyright Al-Ahram Publishing House

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