Egypt goes undefeated in group stage, hopes abound

Egypt goes undefeated in group stage, hopes abound

 As the crowd began to exit a Cairo cafe on Wednesday night, the smiles that graced scores of Egyptians were part of the hope and optimism created by the national football team’s third consecutive victory in the African Cup of Nations. Egypt beat Benin 2-0 on Wednesday to complete the group phase with three victories and no losses.

For many Egyptians, it spotlights a return to the Pharaoh’s dominance, one that was shattered in November after Algeria defeated Egypt 1-0 in a playoff that saw Algeria punch their ticket to South Africa for this year’s World Cup.

“We were hoping that we could come back and show the world that Egypt is going to be here for a long number of years,” said Sherif, 33, a computer technician and avid football fan. “We did just that in our first three matches and hopefully that success will continue in the knock-out phase.”

Egypt had already secured a place in the quarterfinals, and maintained a perfect record with goals from Ahmed Al Muhammadi and Emad Motaeb.

Egypt finished first with nine points from three games — three more than Nigeria, which beat Mozambique 3-0 in the other Group C game.

Egypt hasn’t lost a match at the African Cup since a 2-1 defeat to Algeria in 2004, and stretched its record unbeaten run in the continental tournament to 15 games.

For Egyptians such as Sherif, the African Cup has become a chance for the Pharaohs to rebound from the disappointing World Cup campaign. The believe Egypt needs to show composure and stability in their matches in order to make an impact on the global stage. Sherif pointed to last summer’s Confederations Cup, which saw Egypt nearly draw with Brazil, then beat Italy before succumbing in dramatic fashion to the United States.

“I think they should learn from last year that they need experience in order to not have these kind of let downs,” he began. “Now, if they can’t get to at least the final in this tournament, it will be a major disappointment and will reflect on the coaching.”