Being the host nation of a major football competition comes with high expectations, and this could not run truer for the Egyptian Under-20 team as the North African Nation gets ready to the 2009 FIFA Under-20 World Cup.
While Egyptian teams at club and national team level have dominated the African football scene at senior tournaments they have not been as successful at age-group level.
Being the host nation affords Egypt the opportunity to use all the home comforts, such as playing with huge home crowd support. As well as playing in stadiums and under climatic and geographical conditions to their advantage, the Egyptian senior team won the 2006 Africa Cup of Nations as the tournament hosts and that is a feat that they will surely like to repeat.
Egypt’s best performance in the FIFA Under-20 World Cup was a third place finish in the 2001 tournament hosted by Argentina, that team and performance laid the ground work for Egypt’s current dominance in winning both the 2006 and 2008 Africa Cup of Nations competitions.
In current coach Czech Republic native Miroslav Soukup the Egyptians have a leader who is well clued up on dealing with youth teams, he was at the last FIFA Under-20 World Cup in Canada as coach of the Czech Under-20 team.
Soukup led the Czech’s to the final where they were narrowly beaten by the tournament’s form team an Argentinean team lead by Sergio Aguero. The Egyptians, in appointing Soukup, are looking to draw on his experience from 2007 to help them launch a serious bid for glory on home soil.
The coach has been fortunate enough to have had his team assembled for longer than the other teams have; he has selected his squad of 23 from a huge pool of players that he had looked at over the past six months. In his squad Soukup has opted to select only home based players and of that nine players come from the Cairo based Al-Ahly club which are Egypt’s most successful team.
At the forefront of guiding Egypt through will be striker Mohamed Talaat, who is part o the large Al-Ahly contingent in the team. Talaat to prominence earlier this year when he was the tournaments top scorer at the African Junior Championships in Rwanda, Talaat and Ahmed Fathi known as ‘Bougy’ to his team mates from the other big Cairo club Zamalek. Forms a particularly lethal partnership in attack with Talaat, such is the strength in the Egyptian team that they are equally strong at the back.
Goalkeeper Mohamed Abougabal and defender Saad Samir the latter having already played top-flight football in Libya and Egypt are part of the very miserly defence.
As the competition starts Egypt look to have all the correct ingredients to prolong their stay in the tournament, with a coach who has the know how as to what a team needs to succeed at the FIFA Under-20 World Cup. As well as a team who have been playing together for a while, and who understand each other particularly well.
For Egypt starting off with a win against Trinidad and Tobago will set the platform and make their task easier for the rest of their group A matches. This will see them play Paraguay and Italy, being the host nation will definitely be a plus for the Egyptians, and a trip to the semi-finals is achievable for the young Pharaohs.
Goalkeepers: Ali Lofti (ENPPI), Mohamed Bassam (El Geish), Mohamed Abougabal (ENPPI)
Defenders: Moaz El Henawy (El-Masry), Ahmed Hegazy (Ismaili), Ali Mohamed Ahmed (ENPPI), Islam Ramadan (Haras El Hodood), Ayman Ashraf (Al-Ahly), Saad Samir (Al-Ahly)
Midfielders: Salah Soliman Ibrahim (Ghazl El-Mehalla), Hesham Mohamed (Al-Ahly), Mostafa Galal (ENPPI), Shehab El-Din Ahmed (Al-Ahly), Ahmed Shokri (Al-Ahly), Hosam Hassan (ENPPI), Mahmoud Toba (Al-Ahly), Ahmed Magdi (Ghazl El-Mehalla), Hossam Arafat (Zamalek)
Strikers: Mohamed Talaat (Al-Ahly), Afroto (Al-Ahly), Bougy (Zamalek)